17 May, 2019
What you need to know about depression in truckers
Depression in truckers really exists in the trucking industry, although not widely known or discussed much.
OFTEN, YOU WOULD NEVER KNOW
Many years ago, I worked with a fellow by the name of Doug. He was a great guy. He seemed happy, always joking around. He was the life of the party. He always had a smile on his face. One weekend, he went alone to Jasper, Alberta and shot himself.
I could not believe it. He was the last person I ever thought would have suffered from depression.
In America, 1.5% of the population suffers from depression. In comparison, 13.6% of truck drivers suffer from some level of depression, a drastic difference from the rest of the population.
It's something we need to pay attention to and be aware of the signs of depression as professional drivers.
WHY IS DEPRESSION IN TRUCKERS SO PREVALENT?
The trucking industry driving population is mostly made up of men, so the statistics show that depression in men in this job is more prevalent than in women.
Men, being men, will often not discuss the matter or seek help.
Men often feel discussing depression shows signs of weakness. They are often embarrassed about the matter.
Truckers may feel they have symptoms of depression. But they choose not to discuss it and ride the wave and not seek out help.
This is not the answer to the issue.
5 COMMON CAUSES OF DEPRESSION IN TRUCK DRIVERS
There are other many other causes of depression, but these are causes of depression specific to a truck driving career.
- Too Much Alone Time. Truck drivers are alone much of the time. They spend a lot of time alone, have lots of time to think about things and sometimes overthink matters.
This is not a healthy thing. It can bring about anxiety which in turn can be related to depression.
Drivers miss their families while away from home. Even the time spent at home with the family can seem rushed and short.
The driver often lands at home, sleeps from exhaustion, then repacks and leaves again. There is not much quality time spent with the family, which is badly needed.
- Problems With Employer. Things may not be going so well with the trucking company and the dispatcher.
- Money Problems. Money issues can weigh heavily on a professional driver. Perhaps the driver isn't making as much money as he needs to pay his bills. Worries about supporting the family can cause a lot of anxiety.
- Lack of Sleep. Depression can be brought on by sleep deprivation. Truck drivers are certainly in an occupation where this is often the case.
Hurried schedules, upside down driving schedules, driving at night and sleeping in the day can all cause problems with the natural, normal sleep cycles. The process seems to repeat itself, with things spiraling and not getting any better.
One or all of the above can be contributors to depression in the professional driver.
5 GOOD PRACTICES FOR THE PROFESSIONAL TRUCK DRIVER
- Contact home/friends on a more regular basis. Once per day is a good idea.
- Take the time to relax and unwind at the end of your driving day. Or through the driving day if your schedule permits it. I like to wash my truck or read a good book in the evening, when on the road.
- Take a pet with you on your travels in the truck. It's pretty common to see truck drivers walking their dogs at truck stops. It's great to have a companion along for the ride, for company.
- Find a hobby. Something you enjoy. Even focusing on your health by going for a brisk walks and eating healthy.
- Make a valiant effort to get sufficient quality sleep. Sleep at night is the best quality sleep. Try to avoid driving through the night. This may not work so well for the dispatcher or the ELD. But it's vital to work at getting a normal schedule.
5 COMMON SIGNS OF MILD DEPRESSION IN TRUCKERS
- Short fuse. Quick temper.
- Extra tired. Want to sleep more than usual.
- Not interested in things that you once enjoyed.
- Trouble focusing on things.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT SIGNS OF DEPRESSION
If you experience any of the above signs, even if you think the signs are mild, it's a good idea to seek professional help.
There is absolutely nothing shameful about seeking out advice on how to best manage your symptoms.
It may even be necessary to leave your truck driving job. A job where you aren't away from home with a more normal work/sleep schedule may be the best solution to the issue.
Good health is paramount to professional drivers, both physical health and mental health.
Professional truck drivers must pay close attention to both.
It helps drivers stay safe.
I pray that you never have an issue in this regard, but if you do, it's your job as a professional driver, to seek help.