Breaking the Stigma: Mental Health with Truck Drivers


Breaking the Stigma: Mental Health with Truck Drivers

We’ve all had those moments on the road where we’ve felt excessive stress. Bumper-to-bumper traffic, delays on our commute, or even bad weather conditions can make driving a taxing task. For most, those stresses are alleviated once we arrive to our destination. However, for truck drivers, these feelings sometimes don’t go away after traveling and their mental health can be compromised because of it.

Mental health is a delicate topic that we don’t take lightly. We understand that loneliness and anxiousness are common issues for truck drivers. We’re here to address this issue and provide you with some tips on how to protect your mental health.

What is Mental Health?

Before we dive into tips, you first need to understand what mental health is and how it affects truck drivers specifically. Mental health is a person’s condition with regards to their emotional, psychological, and social well-being. According to Johns Hopkins, one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. More specifically, more than 17 million American adults experience depression, making it one of the most common mental health disorders in the U.S. For truckers, depression is one of the top conditions along with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Another scary statistic that pertains to truck driving and mental health are suicide rates. According to Transport Topics, suicide is among the top ten leading causes of death for adults in the U.S. The transportation industry has the fourth-highest suicide rate among American working-age adults. To put this even more into perspective, suicide is a major concern in trucking because it is known as a male-dominated industry and nearly 70 percent of suicides that occur in our country are carried out by men.

We’re addressing these topics now so that you can find a resource or outlet to help with your struggles. We want to help prevent you from being a part of that statistic by all costs.

If you feel you need help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Factors that Contribute to your Mental Health

There’s an infinite number of factors that contribute to a person’s mental health. Some may develop depression after losing a loved one while others may develop disorders like bipolar because of genetics. As a truck driver, your experiences on the road play a big role in your mental state.

Isolation is one of the biggest factors to trigger poor mental health. As a trucker, being away from friends and family for an extended period of time can be challenging on your psyche, especially because you often transport the freight alone. Being alone with just your thoughts can be intimidating and sometimes being alone for too long can cause bad thoughts to creep in.

Another factor that causes a lot of drivers to experience PTSD or anxiety is the day-to-day events that happen on the road. The longer you’ve been in the industry, the higher your chances are of experiencing an accident. Whether it be you or some other car on the road, witnessing wrecks can be very traumatic and can result in developing a mental health condition.

Food also impacts your mental health. It’s easy and convenient to stop at a rest stop for a snack or go through the drive-thru for a quick meal, but those aren’t the healthiest options. Your brain needs fuel in order to run properly. If you’re eating bad, you’re going to feel bad. An article published by Harvard Health speaks to this topic. Eva Selhub says that our brain is like an expensive car. It requires premium fuel in order to function properly. If your brain is deprived of good-quality nutrition, consequences are to be expected.  This concept has a lot to do your gastrointestinal tract and the effect it has on your serotonin levels. Serotonin is what mediated your mood and 95% of your serotonin is produced in your GI tract. If there is good bacteria in your GI from the healthy food you are eating, there will be a positive impact on your mental state. Accomplishing this task on the road can seem impossible, but it’s not. Meal prepping before embarking on your journey is a healthier alternative to fast food that’ll make you physically and mentally feel better. Click here to find some healthy meal prep options that you can bring with you on the road.

Some drivers face challenges in their workday from the brokers they work with. Sometimes, brokers may not explain the shipment in enough detail or provide enough information to you before beginning your travels. This frustration of not knowing all the information required to pick up and deliver freight can lead to a lot of unnecessary stress that can snowball into bigger issues.

Other factors such as the intense pressure to deliver on time, inadequate sleep, and driver aggression all play a role in your mental health as a truck driver. The key is to address the things you can prevent and recognize the things you can’t so you can get proper help.

Recognizing That You Need Help

Acknowledging that you struggle with your mental health is a hard realization to overcome. Conditions like mental health diagnoses aren’t normalized as much as they should be in our society, especially when it comes to the trucking industry. There are several reasons why many truck drivers decide not to speak on their mental state.

Health, psychiatric, and sleep issues are often underreported in the trucking industry. Trucking is still a male-dominated profession that shows a level of machismo majority of the time. To a lot of men, admitting to a mental health illness makes them less masculine. Another reason why truckers tend to internalize their health is because they think that they have a lot to lose. If a driver happens to fail their Department of Transportation exams (due to either mental or physical health) there’s a possibility they could lose their jobs and in turn, not be able to provide for their family. Although this idea is scary, you can’t compromise your mental state. Finding proper help could prevent a situation like this from happening.

There’s a stigma that if you struggle with a mental health condition that you’re weak or different from others. Admitting that you need help is a big step, and a positive one. Mental health disorders don’t make you any less of a person. In fact, recognizing that you have one makes you stronger.

How Can you Protect your Mental Health

We know that a lot of different factors contribute to your mental state, and everyone’s triggers are different. A trigger is a reminder of a past experience. Although you can’t wave a magic wand and completely be alleviated from a mental health condition, there are measures you can take to help improve it.

One way to help boost your spirits is to consider a travel companion. Teaming up with other drivers during your travels can help you combat the road isolation you may be feeling. If your spouse happens to work in the industry, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring them along for a ride. If you’re unable to bring a human along with you, there may be another option. Mutts4trucks is an organization that teams up dogs that need a home with truckers in need of company. Studies have shown that owning a dog drastically decreases issues like isolation and depression. Having a loyal companion as your co-pilot can help protect you from not sitting in your own thoughts and help make the ride a bit more enjoyable. A lot of fleets don’t allow pets to travel within their trucks and some shippers don’t allow them on their property due to liability reasons which can make this a difficult choice. Make sure to evaluate your options with the fleet owner and common shippers and receivers you see before following through with it!

If traveling alone, bringing some comforts from home could be beneficial. Items like photos, knick-knacks, and even small decorations can help boost your morale and make you feel comforted while driving.

Maintaining a strong network and routine while traveling could be helpful as well. Take care of your connections with your friends and family at home while you’re on the road. Calling a loved one can help the time go by faster and make you feel less lonely. These strong connections don’t have to stop at family. Stay connected with those that understand what you’re going through. Stay in contact with fellow truck drivers and meet up at truck stops. Maintaining a routine everyday can also be beneficial. Even if it’s something small like sitting down for five minutes to enjoy your morning coffee will help structure your life and start off the day on a positive note.

Keeping your mind active is also important. What better time to learn a new language than when you’re alone in your own truck? Listening to music, audiobooks, or podcasts can help make time fly and make your brain work a bit harder. Trinity Logistics recently launched the Heart of the Truck Podcast that is a recurring series centered around the audience of truck drivers.

As we stated previously, a lot of unnecessary stress that you may be experiencing can be due to the lack of clarity on the shipments you service. One way to alleviate this frustration is to work with a broker of choice that you’ve built a strong relationship with. At Trinity Logistics, we understand that it is our duty to make sure you have access to as much information about the shipment details as we do. We strive to provide as much clarity as possible in order to remove potential inefficiencies so that you don’t have to stress as much when you’re on the road.

How to Seek Help

Admitting that you are struggling is difficult to face. It’s hard to work on improving your mental health alone. Luckily there are resources and help that are specific to truck drivers.

Making appointments for therapy are difficult to make on short notice and the schedule of a truck driver is everchanging. Luckily, there have been recent efforts underway to increase health care access to people like you who have fluctuating schedules. DOT has on-site family clinics located at several distribution centers. You can get an appointment on short notice to address both physical and mental health needs.

If you are unable to schedule an in-person appointment, online therapy is always an option. Resources like Talkspace and Better Help offer virtual last-minute scheduling and chat rooms where you can speak with counselors at any time. Both options offer 24/7 access and flexible plans to meet your unique lifestyle as a trucker. Talking with a professional can be extremely beneficial in bettering your mental health.

Besides these resources, sometimes it’s nice to talk to someone understands what you’re going through. There are Facebook groups dedicated for truck drivers to have open communication with each other and offer support. Truckers for Truckers is just one example of a group on Facebook. It’s important to realize that you are not alone.

As a community, we need to break the stigma surrounded around mental health and start to normalize it. Millions of people struggle with mental health and it is not a flaw. We hope you found some valuable tips that you can apply to your life and can better your mental health as a result. We appreciate the work you do and want you to know that even though you may feel like it, you are not alone. We see the challenges you face in your business, and we will face them together. We are with you.