Mental health is a “major issue” in the driver shortage problem that many nations are now facing, according to a 2020 study in the International Journal of Logistics Research and Applications. Although, past research indicates that this is not a new revelation.
Driver mental health is a long-standing concern
A study conducted a decade ago noted that more than one four of the 316 truck drivers surveyed experienced loneliness and depression. One in five reported chronic sleep disturbances and more than one in 10 had anxiety and other emotional problems.
Some of these mental health issues are related to driving oftentimes being a profession that involves spending a lot of time alone. Others are likely a result of the nature of the job, which can include dealing with traffic issues all day, sleeping away from home (for long-haul drivers) and striving to meet tight delivery deadlines.
Our State of Trucking survey showed similar results—with 3 out of 4 drivers stating they think fatigue is a big problem within the industry.
How drivers can improve mental health
While some of these issues will exist regardless, they don’t have to harm a driver’s mental health. There are many actions truck drivers can take to feel better emotionally. Here are five to consider:
- Stay in touch with loved ones throughout the day. One way to not feel so alone when driving is to keep in touch with your spouse, parents, kids, and other family members when you’re on the road. Give them a call or send them a text when you stop for a break or lunch. This helps remind you that you’re not truly alone in this world because you have a lot of people who care for you.
- Connect with other truck drivers. It can feel good to spend time with people who are experiencing the same issues or concerns as you. That’s part of what makes support groups so powerful. Connect with other truck drivers who understand how you feel. Meet up for lunch if you can or set aside a few hours on a day off to share how you’re doing. This helps build camaraderie while also making you feel better mentally.
- Listen to inspirational podcasts. Instead of listening to news radio talk about all that is wrong with the world, turn on an uplifting podcast. You may even begin to look forward to your drive time because it allows you to listen to someone who can inspire you to feel better or to work toward the best version of yourself. One to consider is Gretchen Rubin’s Happier Podcast. The author of several New York Times bestsellers, Rubin shares tips for increasing your happiness in several different ways.
- Admit when you are struggling. There is no shame in feeling depressed or anxious. In fact, these are two of the most common mental health issues experienced. Admitting when you are feeling a certain way is the first step. Talk to your spouse, a good friend or a member of your church about how you are feeling. Sometimes just letting it out is enough to make you feel better. It also gives the people in your life the opportunity to step up and support you so you don’t have to face these issues alone.
- Know when to seek help. The good news about mental health is that many issues are highly treatable. In some cases, this might involve talking to a therapist to learn coping skills or identify your triggers. It may also involve taking medication to help correct chemical imbalances that may be contributing to how you feel. If you’ve tried to improve your mental health but nothing seems to work, or you’ve been struggling with depression, anxiety, or another issue for some time without relief, talking to a professional can get you on the road to recovery.
Convenient mental health help for truck drivers
When you spend your days on the road, it’s not always convenient to seek help. Nowadays, many mental health providers offer virtual visits. This enables you to get the help you need while on your lunch break, for instance, as opposed to trying to get a day off.
Many health insurance carriers even offer discounts for online visits. Your benefits administrator can help find resources covered by your policy. If you don’t have mental health or behavioral health coverage, online counseling services such as BetterHelp and Talkspace may be options to consider.
If you feel like you are going to harm yourself, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available simply by dialing 988. It is free of cost and provides confidential access to resources designed to better address how you feel.
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