Driver helpline to aid truckies in need

By: Brad Gardner


St Vincent’s Hospital commits to keeping helpline even if funding runs out.

Driver helpline to aid truckies in need
The confidential 1300 DRIVER helpline is available to truck drivers, their family and friends 24/7.

 

A new dedicated helpline providing information and support to truck drivers in need will continue even if it cannot secure funding beyond next year.

The 1300 DRIVER (1300 374 837) initiative has been operating out of St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney since last year with Federal Government funding, which is due to expire at the end of 2015.

The confidential helpline is available nationwide 24/7, with qualified health professionals providing information, support and referrals to truck drivers experiencing and at risk of experiencing ill-health, stress, anxiety, substance abuse and mental health issues.

"This is actually a pilot program but we are committed to the number. So when the funding expires if we can’t get more funding we will keep the number. It’s not going anywhere," Elizabeth Merrilees from St Vincent’s Alcohol and Drug Service says.

"We are part of a bigger alcohol and drug information service so our staff will keep managing the line even after we run out of funding. We think it’s a really important issue and something we don’t want to see going away."

Merrilees says she hopes the pilot will attract enough interest from truck drivers to demonstrate the helpline is required and that it deserves long-term funding.

"We’re the first port of call where they can have a chat about things, they can ask their questions and share the load a bit and then decide what it is they want to deal with and how they want to deal with it," she says.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is one influential backer of 1300 DRIVER, with national secretary Tony Sheldon calling it a vital service for drivers.  

"This is a unique resource and we urge all drivers to remember the number and, if they need to, to make that call," he says.

Merrilees says truck drivers find it hard accessing health services due to the amount of time they spend on the road.

The helpline also operates a website with self-help tools and tips for drivers.

"We’re here 24/7. We’re not here to tell anyone how to live their lives, we’re just here to give a bit of support and lend an ear to people who just don’t get heard often enough," she says.

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