Understanding mental health and how it can affect your abilities behind the wheel
In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week (18th – 24th May 2020), we want to help shine the spotlight on improving your mental health behind the wheel of your car.
We also aim to give some insight into how you can keep safe behind the wheel, while dealing with mental health issues
But to understand how mental health, we must first understand what it means.
What is Mental Health?
Broadly, this term relates to the cognitive, behavioural and emotional well-being of a person.
‘Good mental health means being generally able to think, feel and react in the ways that you need and want to live your life. But if you go through a period of poor mental health you might find the ways you’re frequently thinking, feeling or reacting become difficult, or even impossible, to cope with. This can feel just as bad as a physical illness, or even worse’ according to Mind.
Who is affected by Mental Health?
There are some biological aspects which affect your chances of developing a mental health issue, but it was suggested by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that 1 in 4 people will develop mental health issues at some point in their lives.
The most common amongst these issues is anxiety, stress or depression, but people may develop rarer issues like schizophrenia.
‘In many ways, mental health is just like physical health: everybody has it and we need to take care of it’, according to Mind.
Of course, sometimes events happen which can prompt these disorders, but the road to recovery follows many of the same markers to improving mental well-being. So let us take a look at how we can improve our mental health in just a few simple steps.
Improve your mental health and well-being
According to the NHS, evidence suggests there are 5 steps anybody can take to help improve their mental health and their well-being:
- Connect with other people
- Be physically active
- Learn new skills
- Give to others
- Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)
Whilst these steps are not definitive, they can provide you with a great basis to improve your mental well-being. For more information, click here.
We understand that everybody is different though – some of you may be extroverts and embrace these steps, but for other people, they may improve their mental well-being through other methods. There is no one-size-fits-all approach – so don’t feel bad if these methods don’t help your individual situation.
Perhaps, you could come up with your own lists of tasks that you can work through – start with things you enjoy, whether that is painting, bike rides or just hanging out with your friends.
Focusing on what makes you happy is fundamental for us all – we all need joy in our lives.
But what about if you suffer from a mental health issue and love to drive – can you still do this?
Can you drive with a mental health issue?
The over-arching statement is not quite a yes, but a maybe.
While possessing a mental health issue does not necessarily mean you are unsafe to drive, it does mean that some of us may need to take additional care, or will no longer be safe to drive if the condition worsens.
The best practice for everybody who believes they have a mental condition or illness is to talk to your local GP.
Often talking to somebody is an effective therapy in itself, but they will also be able to help you going forward.
If you are uncertain on whether your mental health may affect your driving, simply raise the issue and ask for their opinion – they will be able to advise you as to whether you should inform the DVLA.
This is especially relevant if you believe you are suffering from the following:
- Bipolar disorder
- Schizoaffective disorder
- Paranoid schizophrenia
- Psychotic depression
- Eating disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Personality disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Each of the above have very different symptoms and ways in which they could affect your driving – do not risk driving before first contacting your GP or the DVLA.
Do you need to tell the DVLA if you have a mental health condition?
According to Rethink: ‘It is important to tell the DVLA about your mental health condition. If you don’t tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving, you could be fined up to £1,000 [and] you may be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident‘
Some people may be worried about revealing a condition to the DVLA in case they are no longer allowed to drive, but not every person with a mental health condition will have their licence revoked.
They will roughly take 6 weeks (maximum) to make a decision based on the information provided and will explain their decision and help you figure out when you can next re-apply for your licence, if you are deemed unfit to drive. So, there is still hope that you can drive again!
How can mental health issues affect your driving abilities?
Driving is inherently complicated and requires optimum attention for every road user to navigate safely – but how can mental health affect your driving?
‘Mental disorders can affect judgement, concentration and reaction times’ according to Royal College of Psychiatrists. We know that mental health refers to not only our psychological state, but also our physical and sociological well-being – all of which, if affected, can take a toll on your driving.
While each condition (listed in the previous section) may differ, they may inhibit your abilities in some way or another, which can be a danger for other users – whether it is drowsiness or fatigue because of eating disorders or a lack of concentration from anxiety.
Mental health at insurethebox
We have listened to our employees and now have 31 Mental Health First Aiders who are trained to provide support to their colleagues where needed.
Although having a mental health illness may not prevent you from driving, if you become too unwell it could affect your ability to drive safely.
According to our In-house Mental Health First Aid Instructor (accredited by MHFA England), a mental illness could result in poor concentration, feelings of confusion and may make you feel short-tempered or irritated; this could most definitely increase the level of accidents incurred.
Getting ahead of your mental health, and actively finding ways to improve or manage it is, something we could all benefit from.