June 26, 2019

Tackling the 'black dog' in transport

The Transport Workers Union is working with mental health advocates Beyondblue to tackle mental health issues across the transport industry, after a survey showed one in five truck drivers have experienced mental health issues.

A survey of over 4,000 truckies found 918 had faced mental illness before, and an earlier study found truckies had a 7% higher chance of developing depression.

A Deakin University study found 323 drivers had taken their lives between 2001 and 2010.

“There are many reasons why transport workers are more vulnerable than other professions to mental health problems,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon. “The biggest are the long hours away from family and the stress that puts on relationships, low pay and poor working conditions, and high injury and fatality rates.”

Sheldon said that truckies also face serious pressures from big retailers and manufacturers to cut transport costs that financially squeeze transport companies and drivers.

“Because of this, drivers are forced to speed, drive long hours and skip breaks just to support their families,” he said.

Toll-IPEC delegate Charlie Nicols shared his story at the recent TWU National Council in Perth. He could not imagine as a young man that he would ever have depression, but after developing a chronic illness in 2005, he began to withdraw into himself, turning to alcohol to cope.

“I was in no state of mind to know I needed help, and I had no one at the time that could identify with what I was going through.”

Western Australian TWU organiser and mental health advocate Leon Ruri said mental illness is an industry-wide problem.

“As a former truck driver I know first hand how mental health issues can affect people. We want to tackle it by making it a priority.”

Charlie said that with the right help, others would not have to go through what he did. “I’m proud to say I’ve got a lot of satisfaction back in my life. But had I done something sooner, I would have kept my relationship with my wife.”

“Just as important as job security and proper pay rises are, things like depression need to be identified, and truckies need to be put in touch with groups like Beyondblue.”

For anyone experiencing mental health issues please call 1300 DRIVER or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636

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