Uber May Make Lives Easier for those with Mental Health Issues

Some everyday things that come naturally to most functioning adults – from the ability to get out of bed, to maintaining a clean, organized living place – are a struggle for many with mental health issues.

One of the biggest challenges may involve getting from point A to point B – even if that point B involves a job or family commitments. Things like the idea of a crowded, hot subway train may trigger anxiety and even panic attacks for some. The thought of sitting in stop-and-go traffic behind the wheel isn’t too much better for those with high stress levels and short fuses (a perfect combo for a good, old-fashioned road rage incident).

The thought of bumping into a familiar face on the morning commute may be enough for those with depression or social anxiety to want to call in sick. In fact, 50,000 Canadians miss work for a mental health-related issue each week. But, apparently, modes of transportation can play a major role in the daily functioning of those who struggle.

In response to the looming end of Uber in London, U.K., a recent article argues that Uber helps those with mental health struggles, stating that many have found “unexpected solace” in the ride sharing company. It’s one author Harriett Marsden calls irreplaceable. Not only is Uber convenient and relatively affordable, it eliminates the anxiety associated with public transit and enables you to get out of certain situations (i.e. a panic attack) quickly, she argues. “One woman I spoke to relied on Uber to get her to work on bad days, when the only way she could make it out was the knowledge that a car – with a rating, a name, and a license plate – was waiting for her downstairs,” she writes.

This morning, Uber announced it would withdrawal services from Quebec due to stricter government rules. While not everyone lives with mental health issues, the concept of Uber affecting mental health begs the question: How does transportation affect our overall levels of happiness? We all know that where we live can drastically affect our mental and physical health, but how great of impact does how we get around have, especially in large urban centres?

In a city of perpetual construction, maddening congestion and a transit system that leaves more than a little to be desired, simply getting to work, home or a Jays game in Toronto can be one of the most stressful experiences you’ll have all week. Let’s be honest; a brutal commute can make for a brutal day or evening at home.

It’s important for those who don’t have mental health issues (currently, that is; one in five adults will experience a mental health-related illness in their lives) to keep in mind how the way they are getting to the office in the morning is affecting the energy they’re bringing to the boardroom table and their overall quality of life. If you know that the ever-maddening TTC experience is making you a horrible person in the morning – with or without coffee – you may want to consider walking or, if you have the flexibility, starting and leaving work earlier. Seriously, why would you put yourself through the alternative of unnecessary stress?

Not only does it trim your waistline and give you some killer calves, walking has been scientifically proven to improve your mood. When I worked in an office across the city, I started the workday with a much better attitude when opted to walk over transit, even if it meant I had to wake up a little earlier and wear more practical shoes.

According to research, living near a transit line may be good for your mental health, contributing to lower levels of depression (waiting on that never-on-time bus day after day can really weigh you down). While your rent or mortgage may be a little higher close to a subway station, saving your sanity may be worth it. When it comes to road rage, we now know that it is the by-product of a deeper underlying issue. In 2006, in fact, road rage was officially classified as a brain disorder, intermittent explosive disorder. This type of disorder involves multiple, angry outbursts that are out of proportion relative the situation. If you’re prone to this – especially in a time of video recording-enabled cell phones – consider the transportation situations you’re putting yourself in on the regular.

To circle back to Uber, love it or hate it, the reality is that its absence could have negative impacts on the lives of those who are simply trying to make it through the day.