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Friday, July 19, 2024

Students turn to driving instructors as mental health referrals soar by 13%[

Learner driver insurer Veygo launches mental health training programme as 86% of learners turn to their instructors to seek help

  • FOI request to UK universities & NHS trusts sees half a million young people referred for mental health support, with disparity across the regions.
  • Learner drivers lean on instructors for “more than tips on mirror checks and parallel parking” as 86% open up about their mental health while learning to drive.
  • Data reveals 80% of instructors are regularly confided in by students about mental health challenges.
  • A third (29-33%) of students spend MORE TIME WITH THEIR DRIVING INSTRUCTOR THAN FAMILY AND FRIENDS when learning to drive, 25 hours on average.
  • Veygo answers learners’ calls for training for instructors by funding UK-wide ‘Therapy Seat’ programme.

New data reveals that learner drivers are turning to their driving instructors as mental health referrals among students at UK universities soar by 13%.

An FOI request to UK universities and NHS mental health services found they are under increased pressure, revealing as many as 262,984 young people have been referred to mental health services this year alone. This means one in 10 provisional licence holders under the age of 25 are seeking help for their mental wellbeing . Referrals of 16- to 25-year-olds to NHS mental health services, according to a second FOI request, have also increased by 12% over the same period. And wait times to access mental health services are up to 6 weeks at universities and 14 weeks on average within the NHS.

There is a disparity across the UK too, with and 59,580 in Yorkshire and Humber – 78% higher than North West England, which has seen 13,140 referrals this year.


Region University referrals (students) – 2021/22 % change since 2018/19 NHS referrals (16-25 year olds) – 2021 % change since 2018
London 2,213 14% 88,120 5%
Yorkshire & Humber 1,728 32% 57,852 16%
South East England 14,302 14% 17,918 43%
South West England 16,664 32% 9,997 -16%
Midlands 1,760 32% 13,550 23%
Scotland 13,868 12%
North West England 8,013 -17% 5,121 69%
Wales 7,918 12%
North East England 1,867 42%


This trend is reflected among those learning to drive, with 86% of learner drivers opening up to their driving instructors about their mental health. And driving instructors are finding that students are leaning on them for more than just tips on checking mirrors and parallel parking. 80% of driving instructors find that students confide in them about mental health challenges.

Learner drivers spend a significant amount of time with their instructors while learning to drive – 25 hours on average. As many as a third of students (29-33%) spend more time with their instructors than they do with their friends or family. So it’s no surprise that more than half (52%) of learner drivers are calling for driving instructors to receive dedicated training to better equip them for conversations about mental health.

Veygo, the learner driver insurer, has answered that call by launching a dedicated training course focused on supportive listening and signposting, provided by Samaritans for driving instructors up and down the country. The new ‘Therapy Seat’ programme will see instructors receive tailored training to help them recognise signs of vulnerability, initiating conversations about mental health topics and signposting to support.

Veygo is funding 80 free places and support among the driving instructor community has been overwhelming. Instructors who are interested in programme can sign up here: Therapy Seat | Veygo By Admiral

Driving Instructor Dave Holley, from the Tyres and Tarmac Driving School has signed up for the programme. He said: “I’ve been a driving instructor for 14 years now, coming up to 15, and I’ve noticed a lot more young learners struggling with their mental health than in my earlier career.

“It’s natural to be anxious about driving, but sometimes there’s other things going on for these young people too. They have exams and lots of things in their mind. A few months back I had a young girl that was going through a break-up and I know that was distracting for her. It’s not always the driving itself, sometimes a bad lesson can be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Something simple like a missed mirror check in a lesson, and it can all come flooding out then.

“Openness is good for me as an instructor as I can tailor lessons based on stress levels or reschedule more overwhelmed lessons if there is a lot on. This course will be helpful for me to navigate these conversations and make sure I can help or direct them to other resources when there is a lot going on, as my students can be very open about how they’re feeling.”

Suzanne O’Brien, Driving Instructor at The Driving Academy is also hoping the course will help her to support and signpost for her students. She said: “People do get really anxious about learning to drive, especially as they get close to their test.

“I had one student not long ago who had previously failed her test at seven attempts. She felt she couldn’t pass her test and felt a lot of pressure and her mental health was suffering massively.

“When we got to the test centre, she said to me ‘I just can’t do it’. Her anxiety was that bad, she said ‘If I go out in the car, I’ll end up killing me and the examiner’. So we cancelled, as it was the safest thing to do. We went away, and I helped her all I could and made sure she was comfortable, just based on my own knowledge. And she sat the test and actually passed. It was a good moment.

“I’ve taken some advice from a fellow driving instructor, a lady who does some coaching for people who have got anxiety. But it’s a bit of a grey area. I’d like to know other things, and how to signpost people to other people that can help them.”

James Armstrong, CEO at Veygo says: “It’s no wonder learner drivers are leaning on instructors for more than just tips on mirror checks and parallel parking – there is a staggering number of young people being referred to mental health services.

“The response we’ve had to our Therapy Seat programme from both instructors and learners so far is overwhelming.

“With referrals increasing and learners spending so much time with their instructors – sometimes more than their friends and family – we want to ensure they are well-equipped to spot the signs of students who are struggling.

“Instructors who go through the programme will be trained to facilitate conversations around mental health and if necessary, guide students towards accessing support services. Any instructor who would like to take part in the programme – or if you’re a learner driver looking for an instructor who has had this valuable training – please get in touch via our Therapy Seat Hub.”



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