This Christmas we will be taking our message of hope and understanding across the UK thanks to partnership with Virgin Trains and their It’s A Wonderful Line campaign. Over the next three weeks, Virgin Trains will paint the script of the 1946 classic film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ on their platforms, starting at London Euston on 22 November and culminating at Glasgow Central on 13 December.
Virgin Trains have raised over £105,000 over the last two years to support our services and support groups in communities along the West Coast mainline. Our training team has also delivered mental health awareness training to help their teams better support each other and know how to provide support in a crisis.
One of their train managers in the North West, Gary, knows this very well:
In November 2018, he spotted a woman out of the corner of his eye. She’d walked onto the tracks at Liverpool Lime Street, into the path of an oncoming train. In front of hundreds of passengers, Gary got down onto the tracks – knowing from his training with Rethink Mental Illness that it’s important to be on the same level as the person you’re talking to – now fearing for his own safety as well as hers. The woman, who had a knife, told Gary, “I just want to die.” Gary knew he needed to act quickly and, after seeing him stop the oncoming train and get down onto the tracks to try and engage with her.
“I said, ‘we’ve all got problems’ and I took her through a few options of support. She wasn’t having it at first, it was a long process. She felt everyone was against her in that moment. But I used my training and we agreed to both get off the tracks.”
The two shook hands and made an agreement that if one of them got off the tracks, the other would as well. “’You go first,’ she told me. Eventually, I’m lifting her up, putting my arm around her and walking her past the crowds.”
Eamonn is the driver depot manager for the Manchester region and is a mental health advocate. Since taking on the role he has become the natural ‘go-to’ person at depot for people to sound out about any issues they might be facing in their personal and professional lives. During his time in this role, he’s supported many drivers who’ve been involved in fatalities. Inevitably this is the toughest part of their job but Eamonn handles it all with care, professionalism and kindness.
“I chat to drivers immediately after fatalities. You can’t go home and share that with your family. But there’s a free number for counselling for Virgin Trains employees and we all pitch in. Maybe not directly asking about it, but just an extra ‘You alright?’ It makes a difference.”
Having experienced mental health issues himself, Eamonn chooses to manage these through helping others, medical support and writing poetry. He knows how hard coping can be.
This Christmas, Rethink Mental Illness together with Virgin Trains will be sharing our message of hope, passion and understanding across the UK. You can help us today by making a donation online.