In March, the rail industry has today announced the five-year Million Hour Challenge, which aims to encourage staff to donate their time, energy and skill to help the Samaritans in their work supporting people in emotional crisis.

The Million Hour Challenge is open to everyone in the industry, and the first organisations to have signed up to the challenge are Network Rail, Aslef, RMT, Office of Rail and Road, Rail Delivery Group, Transport for London, Rail Safety and Standards Board, MTR Crossrail and British Transport Police.

Other organisations are supporting the challenge by promoting it to their staff.

The aims of the campaign are:

  • To give one million hours in support of Samaritans
  • Raise £2.5m
  • Reduce the stigma of mental health issues amongst employees and promote workplace cultures of wellbeing
  • Promote a culture where it is normal to keep an eye out for colleagues

Mental health is of particular concern in the rail industry where the rate of suicide in the workforce is 1.6 times higher than the UK average, 60% of workers have experienced mental health issues.

Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive Officer of Samaritans:

“Whenever I meet anyone from the rail industry, they tell me how proud they are of the work we do together to prevent suicide. And often they say, ‘but, I’d like to do something more’. The Million Hour Challenge will allow Samaritans to make an even bigger impact in suicide prevention, as well as bring the benefits of volunteering to many more people, in new and imaginative ways.”

Mick Whelan, General Secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union:

“Those of us who work on the railway, as drivers, guards, and station staff, are only too well aware of the traumatic effect that [suicide] has; not only on the families and friends of those who take their own life, but on those of us who have to deal with the consequences. That’s why we welcome this new initiative, the five-year Million Hour Challenge, to help the Samaritans who, in turn, are always there for those who need them.”

Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of Network Rail:

“We have a huge presence up and down the country – in stations, on trains and in our offices and depots. This puts us in a prime position to look out for the wellbeing of members of the public, passengers and fellow railway colleagues. This is why we are helping others by simply having a chat and lending a listening ear to people who may be struggling to cope.”

Paul Plummer, Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the railway:

“Everyone working in rail should be able to feel like they can talk about mental health at work and with their colleagues. We’re proud to support the Samaritans Million Hour Challenge, which builds on our work to reduce suicides across the rail network and provides an opportunity to tackle the stigma around mental health in rail.”