Driver mental health matters


Taking care of your mental health and wellbeing can make life on the road easier and more enjoyable.

In recognition of Mental Health Week (13th – 19th May 2019), we’re discussing the importance of driver wellbeing. Trucking can sometimes be a difficult profession which places stress on a driver’s physical and mental health. We’ve rounded up our top tips on taking care of yourself whilst on the road, along with valuable advice from ‘Truckers Who Run’ founder Lee Gibson, and insight from Paul Gardiner who runs the transport industry social media page ‘37 Plus’.

Mental health is as important as physical health.

Trucking can be brilliant: spending your days on the open road, listening to the radio, meeting fellow drivers and being trusted by your boss to get the job done. However trucking can also be stressful with long hours spent sitting in your cab, traffic jams, spending time away from loved ones and grabbing food and sleep when you can. The profession can at times be a lonely one and it’s easy to feel de-motivated.

Mental health is an important issue, affecting everyone in all walks of life, as the charity Mind states ‘approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.’ Drivers are no exception; the Road Haulage Association (RHA) reports ‘almost a third of self-reported, work-related illness in our sector is due to stress, anxiety and depression.’

So what can be done?

The pressures drivers face.

Paul Gardiner is all too aware of the difficulties drivers face at work. He’s a driver and runs the Facebook page ‘37 Plus’ which deals with driver health, wellbeing, facilities and treatment in the transport industry.

“Loneliness can have an adverse effect on us. Drivers can go days without speaking to anyone, especially long-distance drivers…you can walk into any large driver waiting room and nobody really wants to speak as morale in the industry is also pretty low. This can lead to loss of communication skills over time and unwillingness to open up about non-driving related issues,” explains Paul.

He also mentions how being away from loved ones can take its toll, especially children or family members who are unwell. This, along with long hours, tiredness and poor rest facilities can cause lots of stress and anxiety for drivers, which can affect mood and concentration, putting them at a greater risk of accidents.

Top tips for boosting your mood.

Paul has listed his top tips for improving your mental health whilst on the job:

  • Exercise – squeezing in exercise when you can, even if it’s a few short walks spread out throughout the day. Fresh air and stretching your muscles can work wonders.
  • Balanced diet – picking healthy food options and prepping meals can improve your physical and mental health by making you feel less sluggish and providing more energy.
  • Spending time away from your vehicles – spend you breaks outside of your cab. Chat with other drivers in a truck stop or spend some time in nature for a break from the busy roads.
  • Phone apps – swap T.V. and the internet for Calm and Headspace – popular apps which encourage you to take time out of your day for reflection, mindfulness and meditation.
  • Sleep – don’t underestimate the importance of sleep. Tiredness can massively impact your mood and alertness – aim for at least seven hours a night if possible.

Exercise improves your physical and mental health.

Lee Gibson started the group ‘Truckers Who Run’ back in 2015 to help drivers get in shape and develop healthy exercise routines. The group now has 2500+members and an active online community of like-minded drivers who regularly share their progress and support one another. A lot of the members have achieved much success since joining the group with many partaking in events they never thought were possible from 10k races to the London Marathon!

However the group isn’t all about running, it now promotes any type of exercise for all levels, encouraging drivers to simply get moving, as Lee puts it, “We help each other; we give advice on fitness, food, nutrition and how to get into exercise in the first place.”

He is now a qualified personal trainer and continues to take a keen interest in driver health, particularly the mood-boosting benefits of exercise. Lee, himself has had personal problems in the past that have affected his wellbeing and he cites fitness as therapeutic, “I’ve had things happening at work and home, at the same time – the time I spent training or running was a relief from what was happening and kept me from doing other things to get away from i.e. drinking etc. Plus afterwards it gave me a clearer head to get things in to perspective.”

Read our article on Truckers Who Run

“Running definitely helps me with bad moods, and releases lots of tension after a stressful working day.”

– Driver

Truckers share their mental health stories.

Some of the members in ‘Truckers Who Run’ recently shared their stories of how exercise has helped with mental health challenges.

“I struggle with anxiety and depression, and in a positive way, if I push myself physically, the pain of effort distracts me from the turbulence inside. It also gives me a sense of clarity and achievement. Some people drink to feel normal, I train to keep myself level.”

“Can't beat a run to de-stress I've found ... proper clears the head after a day suffering from the numptys on the road.”

“I lost my wife suddenly and we have two small children. I took some time off work and started running as a way to escape the grief for a short while. I now run most days and gym visits have helped me cope and my mood. Always been a fat lad but achieving numerous 10k races helped enormously with the mental side of things.”

“I use exercise when my head allows me, to escape reality and I use hill walking etc. when I want to be away from civilisation.”

“Running definitely helps me with bad moods, and releases lots of tension after a stressful working day.”

We’d really like to thank these drivers for sharing their experiences with us – it’s good to know that even in difficult situations, it is possible to find a way to focus on the positive. Exercise is clearly a great help – if you’d like to start exercising but don’t know where to start, why not check out Lee’s group Truckers Who Run

Finding help and support.

There are lots of resources available to help drivers with their mental health. The charity Mind provides online support and advice as well as local services including drop-in centres and counselling: visit Mind.

The Samaritans are available 24/7 if you need to talk, call: 116 123 or visit The Samaritans.

There is also a lot of self-help groups on social media, including ‘Truckers Samaritans’, a support group specifically for truckers who want to reach out and talk about their issues with other drivers and share recovery methods. Visit Truckers Samaritans.

Want to share your story?

Feel free to share your story and chat with other RoadStars about mental health in the comment section below.

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