I was talking to a peer who works 30 plus hours a week by getting up at 4:00AM to be on a train by 5:20AM. The person walks to the train station, takes the train, and then connects to a bus. This is a long day- – but more importantly a rewarding routine of earned income, feelings of social inclusion and more. I can empathize as I didn’t drive for 16 years. I walked and learned to navigate a bus and train in order to work a part time position. I didn’t have to get up as early as this peer and I applaud them and others who acknowledge the importance and value of employment in one’s recovery journey.
When speaking to this person I was reminded of a provider’s concerns last year about promoting driver’s licenses for people living with mental health concerns. That well-meaning provider and others are concerned about the potential stress put on people with psychiatric conditions to have an expectation of getting a driver’s license. As I mentioned, I didn’t drive for 16 years, though I actually had a driver’s license. I lost confidence in driving becoming both vocationally and socially limited. However, I am glad I continued to renew the license which gave me respected and non-stigmatizing identification. Fondly, I remember a friend who moved to Florida giving me round-trip tickets to visit because I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. I took airport transportation with my “undisputed” driver’s license for airport security check-in. No need for a state issued “non-driver’s licensed” ID. I have now been driving for 10 years affording me expanded work/career opportunities.
So what do you think about persons living with mental illness getting a driver’s license and managing the responsibilities that come with it like anyone else (drive to help out, an emergency situation, ID., etc.)?