Michelle Peden.
Michelle Peden.

Long hours risk health

REGARDLESS of our role in life we are all vulnerable to mental health issues.

Sometimes our genetic make-up can influence our mental health.

So too can previous psychological experiences such as childhood trauma.

However, there are no surprises for guessing, the biggest contributor to mental ill health is usually workplace stress.

Stress does not discriminate. It can affect any person of any age and any gender. It is no longer exclusive to the high-powered executives in their ivory towers and corner offices.

In fact, studies show the most stressful jobs are those that have limited power but still hold a level of responsibility to deliver.

You know what it's like - somebody always needs something yesterday.

So you have to suddenly drop everything because someone in their wisdom and their poor planning needs something from you right now. Or you're busting your gut, to get your delivery to someone, somewhere... because of why exactly?

Does this sound like you?

Stress in the workplace is enormous. The findings in a 2008 health survey by the NSW Transport Industry showed what we have always known - that truck drivers work incredibly long hours, in fact an average of 62 hours a week. Working long hours throws out the work-life balance, which in turn increases stress levels and can contribute to mental health issues. It is well known that stress originating from the workplace is a significant risk factor for the development of depression.

The same 2008 NSW Transport Industry study showed having mild depression doubled accident rates while having severe depression increased the rate five to six times. These accident rates could well be decreased if truck drivers, their employers and their families recognised the signs of depression and other mental health issues, and sought help.

Signs of stress may include any changes in behaviour, such as increased or decreased appetite, inability to concentrate, irritability or fatigue. Additionally, signs of depression include not being able to sleep or sleeping too much, finding previously easy tasks difficult, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, an inability to control your negative thoughts no matter how much you try, consuming more alcohol than normal and engaging in other reckless behaviour.

If you can identify with any of these signs and symptoms and they just won't go away, you may be suffering from clinical depression and need help.

If you are having thoughts that your life is not worth living then you should seek help immediately. Sadly, only 10% of truck drivers seek help for depression and other mental health issues. Others just self-medicate, trying to numb the symptoms. The longer you go without proper treatment, the worse your condition will become.

Contrary to popular beliefs, people who access counselling are not crazy or weak, but sensible, intelligent and strong.

They care about their health and the safety of others. As much as we would like to believe we are all superheroes, the reality is we are not. We need to recognise that when we have an issue, sometimes we need professionals to help us get back on the right path.


More information on depression at beyondblue or phone their info line 1300 224 636.

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