Work and art are helping railway worker cope with her PTSD

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Here, railway worker and West Croydon resident TRACEY FULLER shares her story of how she has found ways of managing her own ill-health

Tracey Fuller had a difficult upbringing and faced traumas that have followed her into adulthood. It wasn’t until 2019 that she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder – PTSD – and she has been using art therapy as a way of coping.

“What I went through as a child has caused significant and lasting impacts on my mental health. Everything came to a head when I was 14 years old and since then I’ve suffered from panic attacks, which has been hard for my five boys to see.”

Tracey, who lives in West Croydon, is now 56. She says that she hasn’t let her mental health battles define her.

She discovered the railway in 2015 and having a fulfilling career later in life with Govia Thameslink Railway has helped to keep her distracted in a positive way.

“I really enjoy coming to work because I get to help lots of people every day. Now that I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, I’m very understanding and compassionate when it comes to meeting other people struggling with their mental health.

“Over the years, I’ve learnt that if someone looks agitated or distressed then it only takes one kind word to help calm them down and turn their day around.”

Art treatment: Tracey Fuller says her work with GTR has helped her cope with her PTSD

It was a year after her PTSD diagnosis that Tracey began to use art therapy as a way to tackle her condition.

“I felt an overwhelming sense of relief once I was diagnosed with PTSD, but still hadn’t found a way to control my panic attacks.

“I’d tried a few things, but nothing worked until one day I helped my colleague finish her diamond art painting during my break.

“To be able to find that space where my brain could relax was an unbelievable feeling and it’s really helped me over the last three years.

“It’s good to see mental health being spoken about more openly and compared to when I was growing up, there’s a lot more awareness training and resources available to people.

“I’m hoping to become a well-being champion with Govia Thameslink Railway so I can support my colleagues who may be fighting their own battles.”

In addition to a network of well-being champions, GTR also provides staff with dedicated caring for the vulnerable training as well as training on how to make a safe intervention on the railway. Employees with Trauma Risk Management – TRiM – qualifications help to oversee the welfare of other colleagues, and the rail operator also offers support from Samaritans, the railway chaplain network and a railway pastor.

Read more: A win-win for mental health in New Addington’s Men’s Shed
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