A former Wiltshire train worker has revealed the grim realities of working his whole life in the industry - especially dealing with regular fatalities.

After working on the frontline of the railway, Paul Stanford from Chippenham feels now is the time to tackle the mental health of the UK's railway staff.

He and his wife Fiona are shedding light on the realities workers face, including having to attend rail suicides with little to no follow-up support.

He explained: “I’d been off work for eight months with post-traumatic stress disorder from when I used to have to go to train crashes and rail suicides. It made me quite poorly.

“From that I decided I wanted to tell my story, not to be cathartic for me but to actually help other people and say you can get through this stuff.”

Wiltshire Times: Paul and Fiona Stanford introducing their new charity; 'Head-shunt'Paul and Fiona Stanford introducing their new charity; 'Head-shunt'

Mr Stanford worked on the railway for 37 years - since the age of 16 - and retired in the autumn of 2021.

The couple discussed in August what they could do to help and came up with the idea of the charity ‘Head-shunt’ which got its name from Mrs Stanford in conversation about having a shift in mindset.

The charity is set to launch in May this year, and they are currently raising money to help it along on gofundme, which you can find here.

Mr Stanford said: “Staying mentally well is crucial. People working in the railway family have no dedicated charitable body to support them mentally.

"Therefore we’re fundraising to get our railway mental health charity called Head-shunt off the ground, to support people in the railway family.”

Paul and Fiona believe that the past two years of Covid have put “immense pressure” on a number of industries and sometimes what rail staff have to go through can be overlooked.

Paul added: “The railway family is no exception. People in the railways are deemed 'key workers' as the railway is key to move people and freight to keep Britain moving.”

Working in the industry can take its toll in a number of ways, Paul explained: “The railway is a 24/7 operation in the UK.

"Aside from office tasks, lots of people work on their own, work at night and day; during unsocial times of the year including Christmas Day and have to contend with attending rail suicides; dealing with irate passengers, plus time-bound pressures in running the railway including maintenance and renewal.

“When you’re doing the job, you’re focused on keeping things going and you don’t tend to think too much about your own wellbeing."

The aims of the charity are to educate people and signpost those who need it to get support.

The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) has published a survey that found over 40 per cent of rail workers are suffering from a mental health condition.

A spokesperson for the company stated: “Despite the prevalence of poor mental health, only half of the participants sought help.

"Sickness absence was five times higher than the general population pre-pandemic and six times higher than the general population during the pandemic.”

When life is difficult, Samaritans are there – You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.