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Supporting staff mental health at Crossrail

10 October 2016  •  Author(s): Christina Butterworth, Occupational Health and Wellbeing Strategy Lead at Crossrail & MHFA England

Supporting staff mental health at Crossrail

Mental ill health in the workplace is a growing issue with more than three quarters (77%) of employees experiencing symptoms of poor mental health in their lives according to the Mental Health at Work report released this week which shines a light on the issue.

This World Mental Health Day on 10th October, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England is calling on employers to find out how they can support the mental wellbeing of their staff.

Here, Christina Butterworth, Occupational Health and Wellbeing Strategy Lead at Crossrail, tells us why mental health will be a vital part of the Crossrail legacy.

Health and Safety is Crossrail’s number one value. As part of our ‘target zero’ approach emphasising that everyone has the right to go home every day unharmed, we have embedded a health and safety culture into all aspects of the project. And with men three times more likely to die by suicide than their female counterparts, the case for prioritising mental health wellbeing in the current male dominated construction industry is clear.

“We want to ensure that employees have people to talk to about whatever they might be going through and to give staff the skills to support colleagues experiencing mental health issues”

With today being World Mental Health Day – the theme of which this year is ‘psychological and mental health first aid for all’ – it’s important to remember that just as we all have physical health, we all have mental health too. Mental ill health can affect anyone. As an organisation, we want to ensure that employees have people to talk to about whatever they might be going through and to give staff the skills to support colleagues experiencing mental health issues.

Our decision to begin training staff in Mental Health First Aid followed the results of a survey which found that, like the rest of the UK population, one in four of Crossrail’s staff has experienced mental ill health. Mental Health First is the mental health equivalent of physical first aid, and provides participants with the skills and confidence to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues and effectively guide a person towards the right support.

Mental Health First Aiders

We’ve since trained 12 employees to become Mental Health First Aiders, with 12 more signed up to complete the course by the end of the year. In addition to that, 90 line managers have so far taken part in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England’s one day mental health awareness course.

Many of our employees who go on the training are team administrators as they are often the first people that colleagues approach to get a question answered or to find out where to go to get further information. Their training gives them the skills and confidence to help those colleagues while looking after their own wellbeing.

Training in Mental Health First Aid is just part of our commitment to staff mental health wellbeing. Crossrail also offers the opportunity for staff to engage on their personal and business mental health requirements through the Crossrail-wide wellbeing survey, as well as feedback on all initiatives.

Twice a year, Crossrail holds a project-wide ‘Stepping Up Week’; a period dedicated to health and safety for everyone who works on Crossrail – whether that be on a construction site or in an office. As part of our commitment to this area of wellbeing, last October’s Stepping Up Week focused on mental health.

We also employ a number of other initiatives to address the stigma of mental health among our workforce including online training, practical workshops on personal resilience, stress management, fatigue, nutrition, exercise and mindfulness. Additionally, the business is engaged with various networks and campaigns to ensure good practice and shared learning including Public Health Responsibility Deal, Time to Talk, London Health & Wellbeing Week, City Mental Health Alliance, and Business in the Community.

At Crossrail, we’re dedicated to improving health provision in the construction industry as a whole, with all members of our supply chain contractually bound to have their own individual wellbeing programme, with wellbeing co-ordinators at every site.

“Crossrail is in an ideal position to lead by example and leave a positive legacy in the provision of mental health”

As the largest infrastructure project in Europe, with over 10,000 people working across over 40 construction sites, Crossrail is in an ideal position to lead by example and leave a positive legacy in the provision of mental health. We’re supporting MHFA England’s call for everyone to ‘Take 10 Together’ this World Mental Health Day: check in on someone – a friend, a family member, a colleague or student – and start that conversation about their mental health and wellbeing.

‘Take 10 Together’ seeks to help people take their first step on the journey of improving their mental wellbeing and that of others around them, as well as demonstrating the importance of Mental Health First Aid. Taking just ten minutes to start that conversation can make a difference.


 To find out how employers can support the wellbeing of their staff and demonstrate their commitment to World Mental Health Day, visit mhfaengland.org and download the free MHFA England Take 10 Together toolkit.  

For more guidance around how to approach and respond to a colleague who may be experiencing a mental health issue download the free Line Managers’ Resource at mhfaengland.org/workplace/line-managers-resource.


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