New directions and breakthroughs in improving the mental health landscape

EA Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds (HHTS) marked its first full year of operation in mid-August, we reflected on the past 12 months and the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.

The pandemic has continued to reinforce the need for a collective, industry-led approach to addressing rising concerns related to mental health and physical wellbeing in the Australian road transport, warehousing and logistic industries.

The pressure that has been placed on the supply chain as a result of COVID-19, has shown us how resilient and critical the sector is.

However, research from Monash University in their Driving Health Study shows that one in two drivers surveyed reported some level of psychological distress and that the proportion of truck drivers under 35 with severe psychological distress was almost double the average for Australian males in the same age bracket.

The study shows that Australia is at risk of a shortage of truck drivers in the future, largely due to difficulty attracting a new generation of drivers to the profession.

While these insights come as no surprise given the industry mental health risk factors, they’re a driving force for HHTS to call on the sector to come together on mental health and wellbeing, particularly to protect younger drivers’ mental health.

For HHTS to be successful in shifting the dial on mental health and wellbeing, we need all operators to adopt the best practice framework that sits within the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Roadmap (the Roadmap).

The Framework is a guide to the development of psychologically safe and thriving workplaces and is built around the components of preventing harm, intervening early and supporting recovery.

If the industry is able to adopt this approach over the course of the next three years, we believe that the entire sector can move in the right direction, and in time become a leader in terms of mentally healthy workplaces. How do we get there? This is one of the most frequently asked questions of HHTS, and rightly so.

We have a long road ahead of us, but what is important is that we have started the journey and we’re seeing willingness from all levels of the sector to get involved. Over the course of the coming months and into 2022, HHTS will commence the rollout of programs and initiatives that support the Roadmap strategy.

One of these initiatives includes the release of the Healthy Heads App, which has been developed with the support of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).

Through focus groups and user testing, with representatives from across the sector, HHTS found a demand for easy access to relevant information, particularly relating to starting a conversation, alleviating financial stress and improving diet and physical wellbeing.

With feedback from the industry at the forefront of its creation, the Healthy Heads App is targeted at supporting wellbeing, increasing self-awareness and creating greater resilience.

Importantly, will continue to build out additional capabilities within the App, placing a strong focus on a function that allows users to rate facilities including highway rest stops. In addition to the Healthy Heads App, another key focus area is the development of tailored training programs that are relevant to the sector.

Since August 2020, HHTS has engaged with leading mental health providers in Australia to pilot a range of co-designed programs.

So far, this has led to the delivery of the Lifeline eLearning course (Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Road Transport, Warehousing & Logistics Sector) that is available via the HHTS website.

Over 2021 and 2022, HHTS will expand this offering ensuring that workers, managers and leaders have access to training and education material that enables them to support themselves and others, and ultimately to meet the objectives of the Roadmap strategy.

Furthermore, in recognition of the size and scale of the sector, HHTS is working with PACCAR Australia to develop and deliver an on-road campaign that reaches communities that would otherwise have limited access to tools and information around mental health and physical wellbeing.

Activation events will also aim to increase awareness around ways to seek support and take action toward implementing the Roadmap, particularly for smaller businesses.

Today, more than a year after launching HHTS it is apparent that many of the initiatives we are driving are well overdue.

However, there is a part for everyone to play in the ongoing awareness and sharing of information relating to mental health and physical wellbeing.

We can all contribute to alleviating stigma and promoting environments where people feel comfortable to reach out for support when they need it.

Naomi Frauenfelder

Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds