SPEAKING UP: Union addresses Black Dog in trucking

We know that according to research 22 per cent of truck drivers experience mental health issues, but we also know that 91 per cent of drivers that experience symptoms aren’t receiving treatment.


The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has directed their focus to addressing mental health issues across the transport industry by providing training to delegates and organisers within the union, as well as partnering with beyondblue to drive awareness.

Ultimately, the goal is to move towards engagement of employers and clients on developing workplace policies on mental health, the Union says.

"This initiative will seek to provide support to those living with mental health problems but also to make recommendations on what needs to be done to tackle them," said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.

Beyondblue’s Head of Workplace Research and Development Nick Arvanitis spoke to Owner//Driver about the reasons truck drivers are at risk of experiencing mental health symptoms.

"Truck Drivers face a combination of workplace factors that place them at risk of developing a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety," Arvanitis said.

"These factors include long hours worked in isolation, work overload, irregular work and rest schedules and a lack of control over the pace of their work."

Another concern Arvanitis raised is that statistically men are less likely to get the help they need when mental health symptoms arise.

"The transport industry is male-dominated and we know men are less likely than women to seek help for mental health concerns, which is problematic," he said.

"Research suggests that 91 per cent of truck drivers that are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition are not receiving professional treatment."

When considering both the prevalence of mental health conditions in trucking and the high rate of untreated cases, safety concerns are a risk.

"Mental health conditions that are left untreated or poorly managed can severely affect a person’s quality of life and lead to work-related injury, accidental death, or suicide," Arvanitis said.

Beyondblue backs the TWU’s efforts to improve mental health awareness within the road transport industry using their Heads Up program, which is an initiative developed alongside the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance.

"The Transport Workers’ Union’s plan to support the mental health of workers and encourage employers to develop workplace mental health policies is a positive step," Arvanitis said.

"Beyondblue will support the TWU to provide their members with access to information and resources available through the Heads Up initiative.

"Heads Up – a beyondblue initiative developed in conjunction with the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance – provides organisations with practical tools to manage mental health issues and create mentally healthy work environments.

"The free tools recommend practical actions any employer can take to reduce the impact of mental ill health at work."

Truckie and mental health awareness advocate Tracee Pearse has been doing her best for the last three months to raise money and promote healthy attitudes in transport.

Pearse says the prevalence of mental health among truck drivers is high and says drivers need to manage their mental health effectively.

"I’ve spoken to a lot of truck drivers in the last few months and a lot have experienced depression at some stage ion their lives due to family members passing, divorces, accidents on the road," Pearse said.

"I think drivers need to manage their mental health better and that will go a long way towards a safer future."

If you need help phone Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or visit www.beyondblue.org.au

Employers and employees can access resources on the Heads Up website, visit headsup.org.au

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