Mental Health for Truck Drivers
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so what better time to discuss mental health in our very own population? As we know, there are millions of truck drivers in America, and their risk for occupational-induced health issues is a concern. Truck driving is a high-stress job, and all too often, truck drivers have limited use of healthcare services and limited social support, which can result in mental health struggles ranging from mild to extreme in severity.
According to a study published in the Issues in Mental Health Nursing journal, surveyed truck drivers were found to have the following mental health conditions:
Loneliness (27.9% of survey respondents)
Chronic sleep disturbances (20.6%)
Other emotional problems (13%)
Source: Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2012 Jul;33(7):436-44. doi: 10.3109/01612840.2012.665156
And a simple Internet search confirms the above. Truck drivers are not strangers to mental health struggles. So, what is there to do about it? There needs to be nationwide mental health reform so that all persons struggling have access to helpful care. This includes reducing the stigma associated with mental health struggles. Read more about that HERE and read on for suggestions about how to address your mental health now.
Phone a friend. Or a family member. Anyone who makes you feel cared for and connected. Thankfully, technology makes this easy now. It also helps to take reminders of loved ones on the road with you, e.g. a favorite photo or note, and sending post cards is also a way to stay connected.
Move your body. The benefits of physical activity are endless and are especially great when it comes to depression and anxiety. Keep in mind that any activity “counts” and has benefits, whether it’s walking or weight lifting or jumping jacks. Yoga is also beneficial; check out our Yoga for Truck Drivers post HERE. Physical activity also contributes to improved sleep, which takes us to the next suggestion.
Get some sleep. Not just any sleep. Quality sleep. Chronic fatigue is especially linked to depression.
Eat a varied and balanced diet. It’s important to have a wide variety of foods in order to stay well. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially beneficial for brain health and are found in high amounts in salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Know warning signs. Nervousness, tension, dread, hopelessness, insomnia, digestive issues, mood swings, lethargy, and more can all be warning signs for severe mental health illness. Don’t ignore them. Though they may be common experiences of people, they are not “normal”.
Seek help. Keep regular appointments with your general healthcare provider, and communicate any concerns to them. Seek out a therapist for talk therapy, which is widely known to be beneficial. Talkspace and BetterHelp are two virtual providers that are great options for those who aren’t able to attend in-person sessions regularly.
As it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, keep in mind that the time to speak out about mental health struggles is NOW. As many as one in five American suffers from some mental health struggle, and keeping quiet isn’t serving any of us. If there’s anything that we at Christenson Transportation can do to support you, our drivers, please reach out to us to let us know.