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Mental health and those working in the haulage industry

We are all becoming more aware of the need to safeguard good mental health and wellbeing, which is good, but there is always more we can do to raise awareness and be alert to those among us who may need help and support.

Recognising the tell-tale signs of worsening mental health problems isn’t easy and is particularly difficult in a profession where workers spend most of their working life alone – like the haulage industry.

It gets pretty lonely out on the road and extended periods away from home certainly don’t help a driver to talk problems through or seek support from a loved one or friend should they need it. Add to this the reluctance to recognise or accept there may be an issue developing, and it’s easy to see how the situation can quickly deteriorate.

An expert’s eye

Dr Lisa Williams is lead clinical psychologist with our sister company Summerfield Healthcare and has some interesting observations on mental health and the haulage industry, which we have asked her to share with you.

We hope you find it useful and will help encourage people to be mindful of mental health issues that can occur while at the same time being prepared to offer a sympathetic ear to those close to you who may need it.

Dr Williams said:

“In most organisations, colleagues talk to each other every day about life’s challenges. They provide love and care for each other and pop-in on their day off because they enjoy the company. And, if a person has a problem that needs more than this, someone will have and be able to access a solution.

“The workforce looks after each other’s mental health without knowing and simply because they are in direct contact with one another. And at the end of each day, if this has not done the job, most people return home to their family who provide another buffer or outlet for life’s stressors.

Look after each other

“There is a huge contrast between this and working in the haulage industry, a job that is characterised by being isolated from colleagues, friends and family. The factor that provides us with good mental health and offers a source of support when things are tough, is no longer available.

“When we couple this with difficult working conditions and a lack of good quality sleep, healthy meal options and physical activity, it is no surprise that mental health problems are common in people who work in the haulage industry.

“These factors are the tyres on the wheels and the oil in the engine; if they are not in good working order, the machine just does not function in an optimal way. As with all groups, the pandemic we continue to live with has added to this.

“From having social distance at motorway services to worrying about one’s family when hundreds of miles apart, the isolation and stress from working in the haulage industry has been amplified over the past 12 months.

Do something about it

“And, in a male dominated profession that carries with it a certain stereotype, it is not always easy for people to reach out and ask for help. We need to challenge the stigma that exists around depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, and raise awareness of what we can do to protect our emotional wellbeing.

“The challenge is to stop and notice some of the small things around us that we generally let pass us by each day. The next time you pull over for a tea break, try just taking in the view. It’s one of life’s simplest pleasures and doesn’t cost a penny!

“In addition, the building blocks of good mental health are sleep, a balanced diet, exercise and feeling connected socially. So, download an exercise video and give it a go, and telephone and message family and friends. No one ever felt worse for doing these things!”