WAY FORWARD : There is a way ahead if you can recognise and acknowledge symptoms of depression.
WAY FORWARD : There is a way ahead if you can recognise and acknowledge symptoms of depression. Pixelci

Taking care of you, not just the rig

EVERY driver knows to be at your best, your vehicle from the hood to the tail light must be in working order.

You shine your chrome, double check your air pressure and run over your lengthy list of safety steps to ensure your operation is performing its best. However, sadly, when checking over the condition of equipment, a driver rarely stops to consider their own condition.

Clinical psychologist

Dr Adrian Allen, of Saint Vincent's hospital, explains why it pays for drivers to treat themselves as well as they treat their rigs.

Especially when it comes to mental health.

"When we talk about depression, what we mean is feeling sad or down for at least a couple of weeks, along with other feelings like not enjoying things as much as usual, pulling away from people, low motivation, disrupted sleep and feeling more guilty than usual,”

Dr Allen said.

"There are various concerns that people may have about depression. Some people believe that they shouldn't be affected by depression if they have good life circumstances. People may be worried that telling someone that they feel depressed might be a sign of weakness or that they might be judged negatively. On the flip side, people may be concerned that if they ask a friend if they feel depressed that they may make them worse.”

Research, however, reveals depression is quite common and affects about one in three people over the course of their life.

For drivers there are a number of challenges that can add to their state of wellbeing.

These can include long hours on the road, fatigue and isolation.

"The pressure to make arrival deadlines can also be stressful,” Dr Allen said.

"Drivers may also find that the time on the road can be hard as it means time away from friends and family,” he said.

"Finally, driving or staying overnight in remote areas may make drivers feel isolated and make it harder to get help if they need to, either for their physical or mental health.”

More hours in the cab can mean drivers have less chance to engage in activities that can be good for mental health.

These might be things like exercise, socialising, getting enough sleep and eating regular healthy meals. It also means more time behind the wheel, which in itself can be draining, as well dealing with traffic and other road users, which can be stressful.

There are, however, a number of tools that can assist in maintaining good emotional health.

"As much as possible, it's helpful to get regular exercise even when on the road (even if that means a 20 minute walk each day),” Dr Allen explained.

"Trying to keep in regular contact with friends and family when on the road might also be helpful. Another useful approach is to plan enjoyable activities for the times when drivers are at home and also when on the road as much as possible.”

One option is to speak to a GP who can advise on ways to get help, which may include seeing a psychologist to help learn skills to combat anxiety and depression.

"There are also online courses that give information on how to handle anxiety and depression. One example is THIS WAY UP, we have several self-guided courses that people can do online, which teach skills to handle anxiety and depression,” he said.

More info is at thiswayup.org.au.

If people are in crisis, call Lifeline 131114, the Suicide Call Back Service 1300659467.

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