Mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood. Such conditions may affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day. For trucking, factors common to long-haul trucking can be the source of mental health-related issues for some drivers. These include such things as financial worries, a lack of social support and job stress.
At DriverSource, the safety of our employees will always be our top priority. We know the best drivers are the drivers that are healthy, both physically and mentally. Offering mental health services as a benefit to our employees provides solutions to drivers facing these health issues while reducing their reticence in seeking treatment. We know that eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health issues is an important step in providing the support needed.
“Coping” With Changes in the Industry
The very nature of trucking can present “coping” challenges for some. While each person is going to have different experiences dealing with these challenges, multiple studies have shown that nearly a quarter of truckers suffer from mental health issues, including experiencing higher risks of depression and suicide than workers in other occupations.
Similar to so many other industries, trucking is undergoing rapid changes. Just as deregulation changed the way such industries as banking and airlines operate, it has also fundamentally changed how our industry operates. For one thing, it has brought fierce competition, resulting in more freight being hauled. Wage increases of drivers have slowed or stagnated. Add in the challenges of driving on crumbling roads and bridges, and you can understand the daily stress long-haul truckers face. It all contributes to occupational burnout and mental health-related issues.
Signs Of Mental Health-Related Issues
The loneliness of long-haul trucking can bring on mental health-related issues. Studies have shown that nearly 30 percent of truckers experience loneliness. It puts a strain on relationships. Lack of sleep is a persistent issue for about thirteen percent of drivers who may get only five hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. This, alone, can promote feelings of anxiety and depression, or even entice drivers to resort to methamphetamine abuse as a way to stay awake.
Steps to Prevent Mental Health-Related Issues
The following steps should be followed to reduce the stress factors that cause mental health-related issues for so many drivers:
Eliminate Sleep deprivation – Maintaining a good sleep pattern is critically important! A consistent driving schedule that includes breaks and a reduction in tobacco and caffeine intake helps. HOS standards are there for a reason – truckers should demand employers not operate outside established regulations regarding hours of service during a 24-hour period.
Maintain Social Interaction – Technology available today makes staying in contact with family and friends very simple. Smartphones enable drivers to connect through face-to-face video interaction. It is not as good as “being there”, but it certainly helps to keep long- distance relationships ongoing. And, video conferencing gives truckers, who may be on-the-road, access to mental health services that specialize in the needs of truckers and their families.
Avoid Substance Abuse – The lure of substance abuse as a way to fight sleep-related issues, loneliness and depression are real. But, it’s long-term effects can compound these issues. Customized treatment is available for truckers. Drivers should ask their employer for support services available that can help them rid themselves of substance abuse.
At DriverSource, we want everyone to maintain good mental health. Following the steps mentioned above will help to keep drivers as well as everyone else safe on our highways.
Bill D for DriverSource