It is estimated that one in four lorry/ HGV drivers suffer some form of mental illness in any given year, yet many drivers do not come forward and seek help. While the stigma associated with mental illness has decreased in recent years, many people struggle to admit that they may have a problem, let alone take the step of asking for treatment.
According to figures issued by the mental health charity Mind, stress, depression, and anxiety account for 30% of self-reported work-related illnesses in transport and logistics. Although that estimate is high enough, the true figure may be much higher, as many people will report a physical ailment when calling in sick, rather than admit that it is down to a mental health problem.
Another startling statistic is that out of the 22% of employees that have been formally diagnosed with a mental illness, only half of them have informed their employer or manager. The end result of course is that the majority of drivers with a mental health issue have not sought help at all, and out of the small percentage who are receiving treatment, half do not feel they can discuss it with their employer.
This stigma compounds the problem, and leads to additional needless stress and suffering, at a time when they need all the support they can get.
How Do HGV Driver Metal Health Issues Affect The Logistics Industry?
The stigma associated with mental health is certainly not unique to the logistics industry. The UK loses an estimated £40 billion a year due to mental illness, much of this down to the fact that people do not seek help early. The logistics industry is one the worst hit of all, due to the prevalence of an old-school, male-dominated environment.
Driving is also a lonely career at times and requires consistent focus and attention to operate safely. Drivers with mental health problems are effectively distracted drivers, which can be particularly dangerous when taking responsibility for a 40-tonne vehicle. In the current climate of Covid-19, we can only expect more mental health issues to affect the industry.
When you consider that there is also a driver shortage in the UK due to Covid-19, Brexit, and an ageing driver population, it is more important than ever to look after our HGV drivers. There is a potential perfect storm brewing for the industry of a lack of drivers and increased mental health issues.
Many companies are starting to provide much more mental health support to their staff. By helping employees to look out for the early signs of mental health problems, and to reduce the stigma surrounding the issue, drivers are much more likely to reach out and get treatment at an early stage.
Looking After Your Health As An HGV Driver
Mental health concerns impact the lives of all drivers, as well as their friends, relatives, and co-workers. Ultimately a drivers’ mental health can affect other road users. Over 40% of all drivers have admitted having feelings of anxiety or mental distress while driving, and a staggering 30% have admitted to having a near miss while feeling anxious at the wheel.
Unfortunately, most individuals ignore their symptoms, causing the condition to worsen until it reaches a crisis point. Drivers are often criticised for their physical lifestyle and diet, but their mental health is equally important, and if you are suffering, the sooner you visit a doctor and get help, the faster you will recover.
Trying to ignore the problem is guaranteed to make things worse. The first step towards successful treatment is realising that you have a problem and admitting it to yourself and others.
Next, open up to someone you trust, be it your spouse, a friend, or a doctor. It may be frightening and challenging to open up to others, but it is an essential step in your rehabilitation. No one should be too embarrassed to talk about their mental health.
You should also consider talking to your manager or employer. They may have noticed a change in you recently, and you will find that the majority of employers these days take it seriously and want to help.
Top Tips For HGV Drivers For Good Mental Health
1. Stay active
Making time to exercise may be difficult, especially when you’re on the road for lengthy periods. However, keeping active is essential for HGV drivers who spend their working hours seated in a cramped area. Consider making some small steps towards exercising before or after your shift.
2. Have a laugh
Drivers should set aside time for whatever brightens their day since life on the road may be lonely at times, especially if they spend nights away from home.
The need for a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated, particularly when it comes to your mental health. If you wake up before your body has completely recovered, tiny annoyances may quickly escalate into major problems.
Drivers, of course, need a high level of concentration; and need to be able to deal with the stress of the roads with a clear and level head.
4. Keep your driving space clean
Many drivers feel better when their workplace is clean and tidy, just as some office workers feel more productive and ready to start their day when their desks are neat. After all, drivers spend a lot of time in their cabs and don’t want to be distracted by clutter.
5. Speak out and share your feeling with others
Bottling things up is never a good idea, and not being able to vent your frustrations often leads to stress, anxiety, or depression. Instead, to help you process your thoughts, try talking about how you feel with someone close to you.
Because drivers spend so much time alone each day, it’s critical that they communicate and don’t allow negative thoughts to build up.
6. Make your own food and eat healthily
The temptation to live on junk food on the road is huge, but as well as being really bad for your physical health, it is also disastrous for your mental health.
Sugary snacks give you a short burst of energy but make you mentally crash afterwards, and high fat and carbohydrate foods drain your mental energy as they are harder for your body to digest.
Bringing your own home-prepared food is a far better alternative, so go for a homemade chicken salad instead of a burger. Replace chips and chocolate bars with nuts and dried fruit if you like snacking while driving.
Get Advice For Your Mental Health
The HGV driving job can be long, stressful, and lonely at times, but help and support are available if you start feeling emotional. It is important to speak up and tell people how you feel, giving them a chance to help you. Always remember that you’re not alone!
If you suspect you may have a problem, first try reaching out to a friend or partner, and definitely consider speaking to your doctor. Stress, anxiety, and depression in particular are so common in a doctors surgery, and there any many medications and talking therapies that may help you.
If you feel you are at a crisis point, you must seek help. You are unlikely to get better on your own. Your doctor can start treatment for you, and even get you signed off work for a time if that’s what is required. If you do end up needing some time off work, your employer has to help you by law and can help you ease back into normal work when you return.
Additionally, there are many charities which you can reach out to and speak with someone, such as the Samaritans on 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline) or SANE (0300 304 7000), who provides emotional support advisors. Mind is another registered charity that offers guidance and assistance to anybody dealing with mental health issues and can be contacted on 0300 123 3393.