COVID times heighten emphasis on R U OK? Day

Industry offers mental health reassurance, advice to peers in tough times

COVID times heighten emphasis on R U OK? Day
One of the themes of R U OK? Day


Transport and logistics proponents, from operators to industry bodies and mental health foundations, are reinforcing the importance of supporting peers on and beyond R U OK? Day.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) safety, health and wellbeing director Melissa Weller says challenging work environments in T&L, particularly this year, bring mental health concerns to the fore.

"R U OK? Day is a fantastic way to bring focus to mental health and the role that everyone can play in supporting those that might be experiencing a difficult period in their life or living with mental ill-health.

"The reminder that saving a life can be as simple as asking a question is an important reminder for us all.

"Not just today for R U OK? day but taking notice of those around us everyday and asking this simple question whenever you think someone’s behaviour might have changed or they just don’t seem themselves.

"Our industry workers and drivers, in particular, are experiencing additional stressors in what is already a challenging highly regulated work environment.

"There are now additional responsibilities for drivers and operators monitoring and applying changing border restrictions, testing requirements and completing additional paperwork like essential services permits.

"People are experiencing anxiety relating to their personal safety, anxiety relating other's health (household/family and friends) and on top of this, is concern for job security and the future of Australia’s economy.

"The best way we can show we really are ‘all in this together’ is to watch out for each other,  look after our workmates and be brave and confident and ask, listen and support each other."

Recently launched transport and logistics mental health foundation Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds (HHTS) is a major advocate of R U OK? Day.

It encourages people to follow four conversation steps when talking to someone they are worried about.

The steps are: ask the question, listen, encourage action and check in.

What Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds pledges to offer industry

In a video posted by the foundation, Qube general manager Belinda Flynn, also a board member at HHTS, encourages workers to take proactive steps to check in on peers’ wellbeing.

"On R U OK Day check in with a mate, ask how they’re going," she says.

"It’s been a really difficult year. We need to look after each other,

"Check in with someone at work; maybe they’re different, maybe their behaviour has changed.

"Have the conversation and ask: are you okay?"

Mark Parry, managing director of Wodonga-headquartered Ron Finemore Transport and fellow HHTS board member, points to the ongoing COVID-19 situation in Victoria.

"With Victoria in lockdown and many of our employees responding to COVID-19 changes in the food, produce and fuel space, I have no doubt many people are feeling some levels of increased stress and anxiety.

"They may also have family members who cannot work and under financial hardship.

"By simply taking the time to ask someone ‘R U OK’ and taking time to listen and offer support, which may provide someone with the lift and encouragement they need to make their day better.

"It might sound like a small thing but showing you care, by taking time to listen and by offering your support you can make an enormous difference to someone in need."

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) notes the isolation of life on the road for truck drivers pits industry as one especially vulnerable to mental health challenges.

"Life on the road can be tough on the mental health of hardworking truck drivers.

"And the challenges we’re facing as an industry have never been greater.

"Today is an important reminder to ask your mates RUOK? A conversation could change a life."

The message extends to transport advocates in politics, with Senator Glenn Sterle raising additional awareness to the cause.

"This year has been extremely challenging for everyone and we have all had to adjust to the way we live and work due to Covid.

"Throughout the pandemic, I have been working with truck drivers and many transport operators and associations to ensure that our essential transport workers have been able to continue their work in a safe way.

"As much as it’s important to thank them and all essential workers who have been at the front line for the work they have been doing to keep Australia moving, it’s also important, when we have the chance, to ask them – are you OK?"


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