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Is the UK taxi industry sitting on a mental health ticking time bomb crisis?

The taxi industry is on the brink of a mental health crisis, with systemic issues preventing meaningful change. While society has made strides in accepting and addressing mental health, taxi drivers remain hesitant to seek help, fearing it could cost them their jobs.

Authorities often provide cursory advice on mental health resources, knowing full well that drivers are unlikely to use them due to the licensing implications. This superficial support fails to address the core issue: the fear that seeking help will lead to a loss of livelihood.

Recent years have seen improvements in how we approach mental health. Open conversations and reduced stigma have made it easier for many to acknowledge when they're struggling. However, in certain industries, the stigma remains, and the risk of job loss keeps mental health issues in the shadows.

In the UK, one in four adults is affected by mental health problems each year. In a job that requires often long hours and solitary working, this statistic translates to a significant portion of taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers. A Mind report indicates only one-third of adults with common mental health problems receive treatment, typically in the form of medication.

1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week in England. In 2023 there were 346,000 licensed taxi and private hire drivers in England alone. Just by the law of averages 10,000’s could be experiencing mental health issues on any given week. But drivers will most likely not get the help they deserve or need. Consulting a GP about mental health can lead to a record that must be disclosed to the DVLA and licensing authorities, potentially jeopardising a driver’s licence.

The demands of taxi driving—long hours, isolation, sedentary work, poor diet, and high stress—intensify mental health problems. In the absence of professional support, drivers turn to self-help groups like WhatsApp, where they exchange coping strategies. While well-intentioned, this peer support lacks professional oversight and can sometimes exacerbate issues.

Licensing authorities offer what can only be described as token gestures, pointing drivers to mental health charities and GPs, knowing that fear of licence loss will prevent many from seeking help. The DVLA’s stringent Group 2 medical criteria further discourage drivers from addressing mental health issues.

Ultimately, taxi drivers are left without the support they need, trapped by the fear of professional repercussions. For the industry to truly address this secret crisis, regulatory bodies should review their policies to allow drivers to seek help without jeopardising their careers.

Until taxi drivers can access mental health care without fearing for their jobs, the industry will continue to struggle with an unaddressed and growing crisis.

If you’ve been affected by this story or you're in need of help, there is always someone to talk to. You can contact the Samaritans on 116 123 from any phone for a confidential chat.


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