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Head-shunt - About Us

We launched on 9th May 2022


Website updated June 2024

We are a charitable voluntary organisation; to help members of the UK railway family uphold good mental health; using our lived railway mental health experience 

UK railways embody heavy-rail (i.e. national rail network), tube systems, metros, tramways and heritage railways. 

The railways are key to the daily success of Great Britain; more so than ever as we face a climate challenge and deal with challenges post COVID pandemic. The railways offer green ways to move people and freight; but to do that it needs a healthy workforce that thrives. 

Many charities exist in the UK to help people with mental health; however we are the only charitable organisation dedicated to the mental health of the railway family. A family that is in excess of a 100,000 people directly employed and indirectly is a number close on 250,000.

The railways are special; they are one big family; where staff are responsible for 24/7, 365 day operation with disciplines in operations, customer service ,engineering, construction, asset management, project management, HR, finance, air operations, office-staff, even with staff supplying breweries with water, through to mining engineers, and property surveyors. The nature of the work means staff often work alone; bringing further challenges for peoples mental health.

For our contribution to Mental Health Awareness Week 2024; Paul is speaking to a rail industry forum on self care using his lived experience and he has produced a slide deck covering the talk. 



Head-shunt was conceived and established by Paul and Fiona, a husband and wife team, from the railway family. 

Why Head-shunt?

A well known railway term; crucial to the functioning of a rail yard or a depot - our human analogy is a healthy head to enable the person to be well.


Paul is a lifelong railwayman, joining the railway at age 16, with a career spanning 40 years. In his railway career he attended suicides, train crashes and prevented rail suicides. He contemplated his own future in the depths of despair as he tackled his own mental health. As a result of his mental health challenges and having sought help, he committed to do more to help others. This journey to help others began with him giving talks on his mental health experience, now to over 2500 people across the rail industry. He is a trained Mental Health First Aider. 

Fiona his wife supported him through his time on the railway and during the mental health challenges he faced. Additionally Fiona has undertaken voluntary work in the charity sector; including working with children facing extreme challenges such as bereavement; and acting as a chair of charities for one of her employers.  Fiona has also been a school governor for 13 years in the primary school sector. 

  • To raise mental health awareness, and understanding in the UK rail industry; through education; based on lived experience.                                                                                                         

  • To help the railway family understand how, when and where to get support.                                                                                                    

  • To promote a culture of positive well-being and break the stigma of mental health in the UK rail industry.

Who will we work with to achieve our vision; 

Rail operating companies; including freight and passenger operators, tram and metro operators, rail engineering and construction companies.             
The heritage railway sector.

Rail unions.                                                                                                          
Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA's) in the railway industry.

Rail industry advocates of mental health. 


Engage and partner with other bodies who can help; this may include other charitable organisations, the railway press, the heritage railway movement, Government offices in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland; using our lived experience of mental health issues in the railway. 

Our vision



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