Noises, overcrowding, confined spaces, or feeling unsafe can make anyone’s journey on public transport extremely stressful, let alone if you suffer from anxiety.
Pamela Borg, occupational therapist with Everyday Independence understands how challenging it can be for someone with a lifelong mental health condition to use public transport.
Pamela recently supported Amber, a young woman living in Melbourne, whose goal was to travel by train independently so she could visit her friend who lived 30 minutes away. Amber has suffered from a range of mental health problems over the last 20 years. During this time, she felt too anxious to use public transport, which limited her access to the community and her social opportunities.
Over fortnightly sessions, Pamela supported Amber to build her capacity to achieve her goal by breaking it down into manageable steps that she could achieve over time.
“We took small steps to support Amber to reach her goal. We spent some time planning Amber’s journey so that she had enough time to get to the train station and board the train without feeling rushed. I gave Amber some tips and strategies to self-manage her anxiety while on the train such as choosing a corner seat away from crowds, wearing sunglasses, and practicing internal positive self-talk. We also put a plan in place of what to do if Amber felt she was unable to continue her journey” said Pamela.
After planning and preparing, it was time for her to begin therapy on the train. Together, Pamela and Amber caught the train for a short 3-minute journey. Afterwards they had a coffee at a local café to debrief and prepared for the journey home.
“I was incredibly proud of Amber on her first train trip. It takes a lot of courage and commitment to take that first step, particularly when doing something that you haven’t done for such a long time”.
Each session following, Amber gradually increased the time she spent on the train with Pamela. When Amber felt she was confident and ready, she took her first solo train trip, meeting Pamela at an agreed train station.
Amber is now able to top up her Myki card, check her balance and use the PTV website by herself to plan her journeys.
Using public transport has had a profound effect on many aspects of Amber’s life. She has more choices for getting out into the community, she enjoys more freedom and her confidence has increased.