Taxi drivers earn their living on the road and the fear of losing their job can take a huge toll on their mental health.
Driving a black cab or private hire vehicle is still a male-dominated industry in which there remains a stigma about asking for help or showing anything perceived as weakness.
Many drivers are the bread winners in their family, but with this comes a sense of fear that if they are unable to work due to illness or injury, or lose their jobs, they will be unable to provide for their loved ones.
This puts huge pressure on themselves and the fear it creates can be worse than any illness they are dealing with.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and one of the aims is to get people talking instead of suffering in silence, as well as accepting that it is okay not to be okay.
This great article in Taxi Point looks at the reasons why taxi drivers fear for their livelihoods – and why they might be frightened to take steps that could help them.
It points out that the job itself can trigger mental health issues because it involves working long hours alone, sitting down all day, poor eating habits, late nights, high overheads, as well as the stress of driving.
It said: “In some communities and industries, there is still a stigma attached to anxiety, depression or other mental health issues which means people keep them hidden away due to added fear that they could lose their livelihood if they seek help.
“Those working as taxi drivers can very much count themselves in this category.”
On top of this, a driver with other health issues or concerns might be reluctant to see a doctor or other medical help in case it appears on their medical record and they need to contact the DVLA and their licensing authority and notify them of the condition and the treatment prescribed.
They will be worried that their licence may be suspended or revoked, or their taxi insurance premiums will increase, and instead suffer in silence by pretending nothing is wrong.
While this fear might stop taxi drivers seeking the professional help they need, one positive step is that they have set up self-help WhatsApp groups in which they can talk to other like-minded cabbies.
Speaking with people who know the industry and face the same pressures can help drivers try to cope with similar anxieties and depression. But because it is not professional help, there are real concerns that the wrong advice could just fuel problems and make things worse in some cases.
And Taxi Point is clear about the root of the problem: “Many licensing authorities put out what can only be described as token gestures. These gestures usually include information on mental health charities, visit your GP and generic advice on managing triggers. But, authorities know full well that drivers won’t get the help they need because of policies put in place by them and the DVLA Group 2 criteria usually set for cabbies.
“Taxi drivers are quite simply not getting the help they deserve.”
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Week is anxiety, which is a normal human reaction, but which can get out of hand if it isn’t addressed.
The Mental Health Foundation advises: “Anxiety is a normal emotion in us all, but sometimes it can get out of control and become a mental health problem. On a positive note, anxiety can be made easier to manage.
“Focusing on anxiety for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week will increase people’s awareness and understanding of anxiety by providing information on the things that can help prevent it from becoming a problem. At the same time, we will keep up the pressure to demand change – making sure that improving mental health is a key priority for the government and society as a whole.”
Being worried about things like your job, health, finances, etc, is completely natural and things do get on top of us all from time to time. The key is being able to recognise and deal with it, even if it requires professional help.
In a few cases, this might lead to a taxi driver’s worst fears of not being able to continue in the profession they love, but it is better to be healthy and able to find a new role than to continue struggling day to day and making bad decisions that could have far more severe consequences.
There is help available and talking about a problem is the first big step. To find out more, visit Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 | Mental Health Foundation
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