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DLR gets customers suffering from mental illness ‘Back on Track’

Today is World Mental Health Day and people across London will be wearing green ribbons to raise awareness.

To mark the day, MetroTravel finds out more about DLR's Back on Track scheme that helps passengers with their journeys.

Any customers experiencing a wide variety of issues including claustrophobia, anxiety or depression can contact the DLR's small team of community ambassadors who will give support and guidance on how to travel comfortably on the network.

Team leader Sarah Barker says when the ambassadors were first introduced, more than ten years ago, some locals viewed the DLR as only for city workers commuting to Canary Wharf: 'We wanted to change the perception of the railway.'

As part of the scheme, a community mental health nurse joined the DLR staff who led extensive training with the ambassadors and front line staff to help customers facing challenges.

Launched in May 2016, the scheme is a joint partnership between DLR and the East London NHS Mental Health Trust.

Instrumental in getting it up and running was Bob Gough, Operations Security Manager with KeolisAmey Docklands, the company that runs the DLR.

He said: 'Transport is key to getting people out and recovering from some of these issues so they can move
on, rather than being trapped in their own homes. But it's having the confidence to make that step'.

'One in four of us will have some form of mental health episode at some stage in our life. If we're moving 400,000 passengers on the DLR each weekday, a significant number of our customers will be going through
something, without necessarily showing the symptoms.

As Sarah explains, the role goes beyond just helping people at stations. 'Our ambassadors bring a wealth of local knowledge to this. If you are a mental health service user and you come out of hospital at the age of 40, and you don't have family, you're going to find it really hard to go back into a community.

'We work with them on all the challenges they tell us about to encourage them to travel voluntarily,
but also to be part of the community in the wider sense. That could be going to a gym, a writing workshop, or meeting a local choir.'

She says some service users have been encouraged to do things that they haven't attempted in many years. She
recalls helping one woman join a local  swimming group. It was her first time in a pool in 25 years.

'It's really rewarding. We're very lucky to be part of a scheme like this.'

Accessible transport

TfL has a range of accessible transport options so that everyone can get around, including:

  • A range of guides in alternative formats to help customers plan and make journeys
  • A new Tube map that shows which sections of tunnels are underground
  • A 'Please Offer Me a Seat' badge and card to help people who are less able to stand to get a seat when they need one

DLR ambassador mental health


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