We’ve all felt moments of significant stress on the road. Congested morning commutes and ill-behaved fellow drivers can disturb many of us, but what happens when your job is centered around driving a commercial motor vehicle for extended hours on end?
This May, for Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re examining what mental health struggles many drivers face, along with ways we can serve as allies to those drivers in need.
A closer look at mental health on the road
Many truck drivers are still hesitant to vocalize anything with regard to their mental health; many of us – truck drivers or not — would like to believe we’re more mentally healthy that not. Since physical health can be measured more clinically, mental health requires a level of self-awareness that many are still unwilling or uncomfortable to voice.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those in transportation and warehousing are at a higher risk of suicide than many of their other working peers. Health, psychiatric, and sleep issues — which are commonly linked to depression — are often underreported in the trucking industry, which is possibly due to fear of losing certifications required to work. This, coupled with the fact that truck drivers are vulnerable to health risks and are a medically underserved population, highlights that the conversation around mental health in the trucking industry needs to be expanded.
What induces the most anxiety in drivers?
Driver anxiety, often masked in the form of driver aggression, is both a mental health subject of concern and safety risk. According to an extensive study published in Transportation Research, stress linked to driver aggression was found to be linked to a higher risk of collision.
Anxiety is a different experience for different individuals, and maintenance for some can be extremely trying — especially when coping with a disorder. Truck drivers are often met with negative public perception and less than ideal encounters on the road, and the long-term exposure to these experiences can bring frequent feelings of anxiety for even the most seasoned drivers.
Moreover, traumatic events on the road — such as hazardous incidents and bridge strikes — cause some drivers to exhibit symptoms of PTSD. As truck drivers spend a great deal of time on the road, the risk of witnessing or being a part of a traumatic experience is even greater for them. Enhanced navigation and video solutions can offer helpful means to protecting drivers on the road and reducing anxiety, but encouraging our community to care for drivers by providing them with better access to psychological support is vital.
Be a friend to truck drivers
It cannot be stressed enough that everyone can play a positive role in serving as a mental health ally by lending the right support:
- Be an advocate for truck drivers: There are many misconceptions and negative perceptions aimed at truckers, and reemphasizing how essential drivers are to our economy, and how misplaced these perceptions actually are, could contribute to reducing the ill-treatment truckers face on the road across the country.
- Offer mental health support to truckers that work for you: People often look to their workplaces for health support, and mental health is no different. Without the right employer support, truckers may be even less likely to reach out for help given the existing stigma around mental health and high therapy costs.
- Do your part to fight the mental health stigma: 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. The existing stigma makes it so that many suffer in silence. If you’re comfortable, being more open with your own mental health experiences could go a long way in opening the conversation in our own communities.
If you need mental health support, you can reach the National Alliance on Mental Illness at 1-800-950-6264 from Monday through Friday between 10 am – 6 pm ET. If you are in distress, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential support.