Mental Health Awareness Week is not traditionally a campaign that is well recognised by the haulage industry, but thousands of HGV drivers are battling demons and suffering from mental health problems. In a male dominated industry, mental health has a dark cloud of stigma cast over it. ‘Man up’ is a comment that is often used, but one in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year.
Mental health issues do not affect everybody and a large percentage of drivers are able plough on with their work without any repercussions, but some HGV drivers can be weighed down by certain elements of the job. Spending time away from family and friends can be difficult, whilst low wages, long hours behind the wheel, strict delivery targets and traffic issues can all take their toll.
Despite what you might think, stress, anxiety and depression are all commonly associated with the haulage industry. RTITB revealed in an article that, “30% of self-reported work-related illnesses within the transport and logistics industries stemmed as a result of stress, depression and/or anxiety.”
The same RTITB article went on to point out the stigma that surrounds mental health and HGV drivers. It explained that, “95% of workers calling in sick due to stress, often cite a different reason for illness. In addition, 22% of workers have been diagnosed with a mental health problem but less than half have informed their employer.”
Prowess highlighted that HGV drivers are still 99.5% male. Men are statistically less likely to talk about problems and will choose to suffer in silence because they feel weak or ashamed, particularly men in the haulage industry who have been socially groomed to be strong, macho characters. Silence does not solve the issue and only makes things worse. SNAP encourages drivers to break the silence and break the stigma by talking to somebody about mental health.
Mind explained that one in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year. This means that it is important for fleet managers to try and spot the signs before problems escalate. The stigma could mean that drivers don't want to talk to their managers about mental health and vice versa, but sensitivities can ease the situation. The driver network can also help, speak to other drivers. You might be surprised how it can help.
If you are battling your own mental health problems, now is the time to address it. You might not be ready to speak to your manager, but check out these websites to find out simple ways to ease your pain.
Do you think that there is a mental health stigma in the haulage industry? Maybe you, or somebody you know has suffered from a mental health related issue whilst at work? We would love to hear from you, especially if you have any advice for somebody trying to fight their own demons.
Josh Cousens | SNAP.