May 16, 2017
Truck drivers are at greater risk to mental health issues, a recent survey has found.
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has released new statistics highlighting the increased risk of depression and suicide facing workers in the transport industry.
Written by Ben Downie
Produced for online by Molly Houseman
TWU Queensland branch secretary Peter Biagini says the union is taking the news about mental health issues seriously and putting steps in place to prevent it.
“Our industry is 22% higher than the national average of those experiencing mental health, and obviously mental health eventually leads to suicide,” Mr Biagini says.
“It is a real problem that we’re tackling and we’ll be continuing to support the industry.”
The union is partnering with beyondblue in an effort involving training of employers and workers, to equip them with the knowledge to identify and remedy the growing problem of depression.
Mr Biagini identified truck drivers’ lifestyle as a key contributor to the high risk of mental illness within the industry.
“What happens in our industry, especially in the long distance of everything, they’re away from home a lot, this causes family problems, break up and then it just escalates from there,” he says.
“Break ups, to depression and eventually suicide.”
Queensland truck driver Warwick Jacobson often sees this problem with his peers and also stresses the financial dilemma for those who try to spend more time at home.
“I guess if you’re getting less money, you’ve got to work harder to make up for what you’re not getting to make the payments, to make wages and to live,” Mr Jacobson says.
“Then you’re not at home as much.”
beyondblue is already working in a partnership with Ambulances Victoria due to the increased mental health risk for paramedics.
Australian Paramedics Association State Liaison Althea Dorsett says Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a more common occurrence for paramedics and underlined the importance for training on mental health issues.
“I think it is certainly becoming more prominent, perhaps not in the tertiary training, I don’t think that is something they necessarily do address,” she says.
“Once someone is employed as a paramedic, it is something that is certainly becoming more common in discussion in the process of employment, as well as their training.”
Mr Jacobson says the burden has become worse after the shrinking numbers of independent operators in the wake of the “safe-rates” legislation.
This has forced independent drivers to charge 15-30% more to their clients, compared to their corporate counterparts, compounding the anxiety suffered.
For workers who have concerns about their own mental health, Mr Biagini has a final message.
“Talk to each other, don’t hide it, don’t keep it to yourself,” he says.
“Talk to your mate beside you.”