Mental health has been an overlooked issue for a very long time. And, it is only recently that societal preconceptions are starting to disappear. As this topic was almost taboo, unless you wanted to be designated a “looney” or a “crazy person”, many people have ignored their own mental health for so long.
But being healthy doesn’t exclusively mean being physically healthy. So, health issues should be treated with the same care and acceptance as any other illness.
This is basic and very important for everybody. Nonetheless, it can be especially relevant for those with job demands that involve driving and/or being alone for long periods of time.
Since trucking is one of those jobs, it is very important to be aware and alert about mental health issues and resources. Nowadays, there are multiple ways to help alleviate, and sometimes even completely solve, this kind of health issue. But it all has to begin with awareness and acceptance.
Truck drivers have a complicated lifestyle due to their job’s routine. Spending long hours driving alone in those infinite highways can be a serious trigger for many mental health issues. And, it is very important that truckers are aware of it.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) recently released a study in which they depicted the most common mental health issues that truck drivers face. Among the most relevant ones are:
The list is not limited to these problems, but they do tend to be the most common due to the nature of a trucking career.
So, if you start noticing any symptoms in yourself or in a co-worker, it is important to look for help as soon as possible. Mental health problems can manifest in a variety of ways depending on the person and the problem itself.
However, some common symptoms include apathy, mood swings, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, difficulty focusing and excessive feelings of loneliness, fear, or worry.
Controlling a car and the conditions on the road can be harder for someone who has mental health issues. This can lead to a collision or a crash that, due to the size and magnitude of a truck and its load, can carry terrible consequences for those sharing the road. So, prevention is key!
In case you think you might have a mental health problem it is very important that you don’t try to self-medicate.
Usually, this makes things worse. And, since the proper medications are usually not sold over the counter, many might recur to alcohol of drugs like marijuana to calm their anxiety or depression symptoms. This is tremendously dangerous and can cause many issues while on the road.
The single most important thing you can do is look for help.
Since society has become more and more aware of mental health issues, many diverse sources are available for those that need them. You can seek medical counseling from your doctor or look for a psychiatrist. Now many insurances even cover visits to psychologists.
Usually, talking to someone helps a lot and might help control the symptoms. If that doesn’t work, you can always recur to FDA-approved prescription drugs. Sometimes, taking a small time off can also mitigate the problems.
Some trucking companies have started to offer mental health programs to their employees.
This has been a topic in the spotlight for quite some time. But, the recent news earlier this year about the double suicide of two truck drivers, brought even more light to it.
Make sure to check with your company to check if they offer free programs or helpful resources to battle mental health issues. Besides, you can also seek help at any of the many free clinics and helplines all through the country.
You can find helpful information about mental health at government founded websites like MentalHealth.gov. Or you can also look for help from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Besides that, many free hotlines can assist you at any time of the day or night if you need urgent help.
Check all these listed referral resources if you think you might need help with your mental health.
Driving a truck and the routine that it carries is not for everybody. But, if you firmly believe it is your call, you can take some measures while on the road to protect yourself from possible mental health issues.
It is very important to take care of yourself while on the road. This can mean different things for different people. Nonetheless, you should try to create a routine for yourself, stay at nice and clean resting areas and sometimes you might even want to consider staying at a motel.
It is also important to make sure to stay in touch with other people, like calling home daily if possible. You need to watch your diet too and take all the breaks from driving that you need along the way.
Finally, if you can take someone with you to help cope with loneliness, don’t hesitate to do so. Maybe you can bring a partner or your significant other. Or, maybe, traveling with a pet might work for you.
Whatever it is, make sure to stay safe and healthy both at home and while on the road. Health should always be a priority.
What do you think about mental problems in the trucking industry? Have you ever experienced mental health issues while on the job? If so, how did you cope with them? Don’t forget to share resources and advice with your fellow truckers in the comment section!