Mental health in truckers needs to be talked about much more. Across most of the world it is becoming much less of a taboo. With the rise in people talking about their mental health struggles online using social media, more funded research into mental illnesses and a general level of understanding due to awareness and education, it is becoming easier for people to speak openly about their mental health. However, for many people it is still very difficult to talk about due to previous, outdated stigmas that are sadly still attached to mental illness in a lot of places.
According to Trucking HR Canada, in the trucking industry, men make up 85% of the workforce, with just 3% of truckers being women. Men are statistically less likely to talk about their feelings to a professional, their families or even each other. The idea that men must not share their feelings or innermost demons is harmful, and exacerbated by working a solitary job.
One in four truck drivers will experience mental health issues throughout their career; the job itself can be quite isolating, driving for long distances alone without any social interaction. Being left with your thoughts and feelings can sometimes have a detrimental effect if there are things bothering you. In addition to minimal social contact, the long hours and being constantly on the road with no proper routine away from your family can all have a negative impact. Especially if there are other issues such as financial, legal or physical health issues. There is also not much chance for consistent good sleep which can add stress.
The stress of traffic/road conditions, dangerous drivers, and ensuring the load gets there safely, as well as dealing with potentially angry/rude customers is a lot for a trucker to carry on their shoulders. It is important to highlight these potential issues and stresses that truckers experience and feel, as it is not as simple as driving a heavy goods vehicle from A to B.
The Covid-19 pandemic most definitely created a bigger issue for heavy goods drivers/truckers as rest stops weren’t fully open/abandoned. This meant there was little to no opportunity for social interaction whether it is to share a few jokes or talk about feelings. The pandemic had a huge impact on the lives and mental health of everyone, especially truckers. This unprecedented event has caused waiting lists for mental health services to reach all-time highs, meaning people cannot get the help they need. That being said, a majority of drivers/workers have received a mental health diagnosis but less than half are reporting it to their bosses or workplace.
There has been a big reduction in overall stigma of mental health, but there’s a large percentage of mental illnesses that are being untreated or missed/ignored. Workplaces need to create safe spaces and provide services for staff to use/go to when they need it.
The fear of admitting that you need help can be very hard, but it is so important. Sadly, trucking ranks as one of the professions with one of the highest rates of suicide. But with more awareness, education and support, truckers can get the help they need to live well and safely, while doing their job.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Help break the stigma by speaking out about your own mental health, even if you feel well. These kinds of conversations help to normalize it and can save lives.