Mental Health, Wellness, and Resilience for Transit System Workers

Transit system workers have traditionally been subject to chronic and acute stressors that can contribute to mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, burnout, and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). In turn, these issues can lead to increased risk of injuries and chronic diseases, workplace dysfunction, safety issues, presenteeism, absenteeism, turnover, and cost impacts. The emergence of a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the ongoing pandemic add another layer of stressors on essential workers including transit system workers. There have been media reports about transit workers exposed to the virus and falling ill, and several hundred have died. The mental health implications of the pandemic with its risk of exposure, illness, and potential death has not been widely examined, nor has the relationship between employee mental health and the effect of these issues on recruitment and retention. The pandemic compounds the chronic stressors with a unique set of acute stressors that are amplified by the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous nature of the pandemic. These include potential personal exposure to the virus, as well as the potential to expose family members; the shortage or delay of engineering controls; lack of personal protective equipment (PPE); and the problems associated with social distancing, job uncertainty, layoffs, physical and verbal assaults, extended or shortened hours, and disruption of work schedules and tasks. The most effective and efficient way to provide relevant and actionable information to transit systems on these topics would be to study the mental health, wellness, and resilience of transit workers, as well as programs, policies and practices of transit systems in addressing these issues. This will require examining the chronic stressors and outcomes in pre-pandemic times and then exploring the acute stressors of trying to survive in highly exposed occupations, amid a pandemic. It will also require exploring transit systems’ workplace culture, including labor-management relations and work organization, and assessing whether the culture contributes to the mental health of employees. The objective of this project is to develop a comprehensive guidebook and interactive products that would assist transit agencies and other stakeholders in exploring or implementing approaches to identify and mitigate the factors that cause negative impacts on mental health, wellness, and resilience for transit system workers. Some examples of products may include fact sheets, toolkits, checklists, a resource guide, training curricula, and/or interactive products or other methods for sharing and disseminating the information. A sustainability plan for the ongoing use of the products should be included. At a minimum, the research will address the contributing factors to a transit employee’s mental health by: (1) Documenting the stressors experienced by transit system workers during pre-pandemic times and the new stressors or exacerbation of traditional stressors due to the pandemic; (2) Documenting the impacts of those stressors at the individual and organizational level; (3) Documenting any differences seen by race, ethnicity, gender, age, and occupation; (4) Identifying protective factors and actions that would help proactively develop, promote, and sustain a culture that supports the mental health, well-being, and resilience of transit workers (methods, models, and programs); (5) Evaluating the impacts of existing programs, policies and practices, including labor-management relations and work organization, to address mental health issues; (6) Documenting the role of supervisory support in helping employees to manage exposures to stressors; and (7) Recommending best practices for transit systems to support the mental health of transit employees (including programs, outreach, education, and bargaining). The project will address both organizational and individual level factors affecting mental health. Such factors might include, but are not limited to, financial challenges, job insecurity, assaults, schedules, lack of childcare and in-person school uncertainty, knowing victims, and constantly wearing PPE that contribute to the stress and mental health challenges. Support mechanisms at an individual or organizational level can also be included, such as employee assistance programs and perceived social support and other similar resources.

Language

  • English

Project

  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $300000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project F-29

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Garcia-Colberg, Mariela

  • Start Date: 20211101
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01758788
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project F-29
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Nov 23 2020 3:06PM