UK non-profit company Rail Safety and Standard Board (RSSB) has launched a campaign to stress the importance of recognising and addressing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in rail staff.

In a bid to raise awareness about the seriousness of the condition, RSSB has published a video showing the experiences of a train driver and a member of station staff, both of whom experience traumatic events at work, which in turn leads to them developing PTSD.

According to the company, frontline staff members are particularly likely to develop the condition after witnessing accidents, injuries and near misses, or from being the victim of verbal or physical abuse.

In 2017, a total of 297 members of the public died on the UK’s railways, 249 of which were suicides. A study by RSSB, which surveyed 700 frontline staff, showed that nearly 95% had experienced workplace abuse in the last year, while over 25% were victims of physical assault and 30% claimed to receive verbal abuse every day.

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Such events are likely to cause PTSD, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues that force affected staff to take time off work. A lack of proper support for staff increases the risk not only to the individual but also to others, especially when safety-critical tasks are involved.

RSSB mental wellbeing specialist Michelle O’Sullivan said: “Everyone will respond to a traumatic experience differently. For some, returning to work shortly after the incident may feel best, for others more time and targeted support may be needed. With access to the right treatment and support, the majority will recover and be able to return to work.

“PTSD is a medical condition which changes the individual’s brain chemistry, leaving people struggling to process traumatic events. It can affect memory, concentration, sleep and social interactions, all of which could impact someone in the workplace. But PTSD is a treatable condition and there are steps companies can take to ensure cases can be detected and remedied sensitively.”

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Some rail companies claim to have seen the benefits of treating mental wellbeing like an occupational hazard, implementing specific, targeted support and interventions to protect their staff.

RSSB said the rail industry is working to ensure it is easier for staff to recognise symptoms and feel comfortable in coming forward to receive support and treatment.