Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults? So what does that mean for our road warriors? The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) studied 316 truckers operating within a 100-mile radius of Greensboro, North Carolina. For many, it confirmed that truckers are part of the struggling population: 27.9% struggled with loneliness, 26.9% suffered some form of depression, 20.6% indicated sleeping problems, and 14.5% had anxiety symptoms.
This confirms that depression and anxiety are common and nothing to be ashamed of. However, it impacts various factors such as your physical health, productivity and focus, and the ability to pass the DOT physical. Addressing driver health and wellness has always been an issue in the trucking industry due to low driver engagement and reach; however, transformation can happen with a collaborative effort between the carrier and driver combined with a driver-centric health and wellness program.
What Does a Collaborative Approach Look Like to Improve a Driver’s Mental Health?
As a trucker, your risk of developing a mental health condition is higher than that of the general population. You spend a lot of time alone and away from your loved ones. You may have trouble sleeping. You won’t be able to move around and exercise as much as you may be used to. You’ll have to adapt your eating habits to your new lifestyle. Fortunately, there are ways to combat depression and anxiety on the road, and we’re here to provide some practical solutions:
For Drivers: Establish Healthy Habits and Routines
From the very beginning, establish a routine of good habits to become second nature. This means scheduling routes, so you have time for at least 7 hours of sleep, designating time for relaxation, setting aside a few minutes to stretch your legs, and reserving time in the day to call and reconnect with friends and family.
For Carriers: Provide Drivers with Navigation Systems
Truck drivers have a lot of control over what’s going on with their trucks, but there are also many things going on around them that are out of their control. Using systems that can alert the driver of traffic slowdowns, road hazards, and the best route to take will improve their safety and get to their destination on time (and get to bed on time).
For Drivers: Create a Comfortable Sleeping Environment
Make your sleeper a cozy and inviting place conducive to sleep by supplying yourself with earplugs, a white noise machine, a warm blanket, a memory foam sleeping pad, and anything else that may make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
For Carriers: Provide your Road Warriors with Better Mattresses
Sleep improves with a 3-to 6-inch-thick memory foam pad or a higher-quality mattress. Truckers already feel undervalued, so why not provide them with a high-quality mattress to help them sleep. The better the sleep, the better the mind.
For Drivers: Stock Up on Easily Accessible Healthy Foods
Truck drivers grab whatever food is quick and easy. Make sure always to have healthy foods within reach. Apples, bananas, trail mix, and beef jerky are all healthy snacks available at truck stops, and they take no effort to prepare.
For Carriers: Provide Education about How to Live a Healthier Lifestyle
Education is vital to drive awareness and change. If carriers can implement health programs that know how to reach and engage drivers on how to live a healthier lifestyle and offer tips on diet, it could have life-changing results. There are loads of benefits to eating healthier, not just losing weight!
What Resources are Available for Truck Drivers’ Mental Health?
If you are a trucker suffering from the effects of a mental health condition, we want to assure you that you are not alone. If you need urgent help, please call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). This is a free, 24/7 confidential line for individuals facing mental health conditions. In addition, they offer referrals for local treatment facilities, support groups, and community organizations.
Fit to Pass is another excellent mental health resource for truckers. Our organization was established to improve driver health and keep you on the road with driver-centric health tips, health coaching, a user-friendly app, and access to licensed counselors.