In the trucking industry, the focus appears centered around the driver’s safety. However, recent attention has focused on the mental illness of over-the-road truck drivers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over-the-road truck drivers face many health disorders and are at a higher risk of depression and suicide than any other occupation.
Mental Illness that Drivers Face
After spending hours and even days out on the road isolated in the cab of a truck, it is no surprise that drivers experience mental illness. A study from the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that several over-the-road drivers suffer from:
• Chronic loneliness
• Chronic sleep disturbances
• Other emotional issues
Suffering from any of these illnesses can affect a driver’s focus, decision-making, judgment, lead to substance and abuse, and cause other serious illnesses.
Preventing Mental Illness While Out on the Road
While not every mental illness can be avoidable, there are some ways in which you can make life on the road feel a little less isolated.
If you are an owner-operator or you drive for a pet-friendly company, you may be allowed to bring along a friend, spouse, or even a furry companion. If you know you are going to be out on the road for a long time, having someone to share your time with and talk to can make long hauls less mentally exhausting.
Stay in Contact with Loved Ones
Staying connected with loved ones while out on the road can help you feel less lonely or depressed. Staying in contact with loved ones can help you stay grounded and feel as if you have support while you are away.
Keep a Routine
Humans are a creation of habit, and often, lives are much simpler when you have a routine. Creating a healthy routine can help you stay focused and on track. You may not feel like you need a routine because most of your time is spent behind the wheel. However, having that steady routine can help you feel like you are not just stuck behind the wheel but have a goal to achieve.
Create an Exercise Routine
Exercising is not just for staying in shape; it also benefits and stimulates mental health. Setting an exercise routine while out on the road can help you keep your mind sharp and prevent slipping into depression.
Along with exercise, having a healthy diet is not only beneficial for your body but also your mental state. It can be hard to keep a healthy diet while out on the road, and truck-stop foods are readily available. Instead of stopping for fast food, you can pre-plan your trip and your food options. Having a healthy diet can help boost your mood and energy.
Bring Memories from Home
While your cab may be small, that does not mean that you cannot decorate with little memories from home. Bringing pictures or figurines can help you feel like you are a bit closer to home.
Make the Most of Your Downtime
While over-the-road drivers spend a lot of time driving, there are moments when you will receive downtime. When you do get some downtime, take your time outside of your truck. Walk around the parking lot, visit some shopping centers, and spend time away from the wheel.
Being an over-the-road driver is difficult to work both mentally and physically, and it takes a special kind of person to spend hours and days away from their family. Drivers are the backbone of our nation, and while you can get burnt out physically and mentally, there are ways to make your days a little brighter.
However, there are times that no matter what we do, we feel a little depressed from being long hours away from family and loved ones. If you ever feel depressed or are having suicidal thoughts, you can contact the Crisis Text Line from anywhere within the United States. Once you reach the crisis line, you will be automatically connected with a trained crisis counselor.
Take advantage of any extra help out there for drivers and return home safely to your family. And, remember, your family at Landstar appreciates your every mile.