1 in 5 Australians are affected by mental illness, but many of them don’t get the help that they need because of the social stigma surrounding the issue. Social awareness campaigns like R U OK? and World Mental Health Day are working towards addressing this stigma – but we can all do our part to normalise the conversation around mental health.
In the transport industry, driver safety is often at the forefront of industry issues – but it should go beyond just physical safety. A driver’s well-being is equally important to ensure a positive and healthy mental state. After all, driving a truck can be a lonely profession – particularly when travelling on Australia’s remote roads.
Long-haul work can see drivers spending long hours on the road – and it’s time that the transport industry stepped up and started focusing on the mental health and wellness of all drivers on the road.
Call to Action: Mental Health and Wellbeing
At Trucking Australia 2019, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) kicked off a much-needed conversation by hosting a round table session that invited people working in the transport industry to discuss the issue of mental health and how to best tackle it.
The session was attended by around 150 delegates, and led by Committee Chair and ATA Chair Geoff Crouch, who called for a unified, industry-wide approach to mental health issues. This included calls for mental health training, engagement programs and knowledge sharing to address risks, raise awareness and create a more supportive industry.
Improving your Mental Health
Reshaping the industry’s approach to mental health is a team effort and everyone needs to work together to make it happen – from large enterprises and industry bodies to small businesses and individual drivers.
In fact, everyone, including drivers, can take charge of their mental health, even if they just start small. Here are a few tips to stay mentally safe and healthy while you’re out on the open road and away from home for long periods of time.
Call someone you love
Driving on remote or rural roads can be long, tough and lonely. Take the time to rest and reach out to your loved ones, whether that be a family or a friend. A familiar voice can boost your mood and help you feel more connected.
Bring something from home with you
Having a little slice of home with you can make it feel closer, even when you’re far away. It can be anything from a family photo to your favourite coffee mug, as long as it reminds you of home.
Take regular stops
‘Stop, revive, survive’ isn’t just a catchy phrase – taking a break while driving is essential. Make sure to follow your required rest breaks and stop when you need to. Pulling up where possible, stretching your legs and getting some fresh air can go a long way.
Stick to a routine
Even something as simple as eating breakfast each morning before you leave can give your working day some much needed structure and familiarity.
Make a playlist
Singing while on the road isn’t just for fun – it can also keep you awake, alert and stress-free. Compile a playlist of your favourites tunes and get to belting them out.
If the stress of a job is getting to be too much, always remember to take some long, deep breaths. Spend a few minutes doing this, and you’ll get yourself back on track and in control of your day.
Choose a healthy lunch
Having fast food everyday just isn't healthy - even if it's easily accessible on the Australian road. A good diet is great for your physical and mental health, so plan your daily food before you set out. Pack what you can from home and choose the healthier option – you’ll thank yourself later.
Invest in a good water bottle and water cooler
Drinking water is essential to keeping up your health and hydration. When you’re taking on a long haul drive, you’ll need a lot to keep you going. Make sure you’re loaded up before you set out.
Make a list
A ‘to do’ list can prioritise your daily plans and give some order to your everyday tasks. Luckily, truck drivers have a range of tools available to help with this, including job scheduling and management tools. This simple process can make even the most arduous job simpler, by breaking down the task into manageable steps.
Struggling in silence is dangerous. Talking to your partner, friend, co-worker or manager can relieve your burden and help you manage any issues you have. Honesty is the best policy, and it might just save your life.
Know your limits
With the help of an Electronic Work Diary, you can track your work and rest hours. Any work done outside of this is at high risk of causing fatigue and other health issues. Keeping track of your work hours is important, as is limiting your personal driving time to ensure you’re well rested and focused for your next shift.
Do something you love everyday
Work is hard, and it can grind you down. Even if you come home tired after a long drive, make sure you end the day doing something you love. Sometimes, it’s the little things that can make a difference. This can be anything; pick up that guitar and jam away, grab a pencil and draw, watch your favourite TV show or play a game with your child.
Employing just a few of these tips will reduce your stress and help you manage any negative emotions or experiences. Encouraging your peers to do the same helps to create a supportive, welcoming transport industry and reduce the stigma around mental health.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, you can contact Lifeline 24/7 on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36.