Thursday 13 December 2018

'Three people told me they were going to take their own lives' - Taxi drivers helping passengers in distress

One of the MyTaxi taxi drivers who attended a Drivers of Change workshop with Aware.
One of the MyTaxi taxi drivers who attended a Drivers of Change workshop with Aware.
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

A group of taxi drivers in Dublin have been trained in how to help passengers who are showing signs of distress, and who may be in danger of taking their own lives.

Aware’s Director of Services Brid O’Meara gave the workshop to the taxi drivers as part of a pilot programme, called Drivers for Change.

“Taxi drivers are really good people to raise awareness about mental health with because they’re talking to people all the time… the fact that they’re frontline and people are getting into their taxis and talking to them,” Ms O’Meara told Independent.ie.

“The workshop was about: what is depression, what is stress, and what is anxiety? And about the conversations to have and how to keep conversations open, and about closed questions versus open questions.”

“What we’re suggesting is that they know what to do when a person is exhibiting signs of distress so that the right action can be taken.”

Some 40 taxi drivers took part in the pilot training programme, which MyTaxi and Aware hope to develop throughout the year.

One in ten people in Ireland experience depression at any one time.

One of the participating taxi drivers revealed: “In 17 years I’ve had experience with three people who told me they were going to take their own lives.”

Another said he learned “how to listen to people” at the workshop.

“There was really, really good engagement from the taxi drivers that were there,” Ms O’Meara added. “So many of them came up to me afterwards and thanked me, and talked about scenarios they’d been in.”

“One man said there had been a passenger in his taxi who had been recently bereaved, and he said ‘I’m sorry for your troubles’, and he felt the conversation died then after that. He wanted to know what was the right thing to say, and I said there was nothing wrong with what you said, but what if you had said ‘that must have been really difficult for you?’ He felt that would have been perfect.”

“We’re giving people a language and a way of communicating with their passengers that’s helpful,” Ms O’Meara added.

If you have been affected by any issue mentioned in this article, you can contact Aware by phoning 1800 80 48 48 Monday to Sunday from 10am to 10pm, emailing  supportmail@aware.ie, or attending one of its 38 support groups nationwide.

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