Taking action on mental health

What can we do to shape a mentally healthy trucking industry? We all have a responsibility to help those experiencing mental health issues and while this can be as simple as asking ‘how are you’ or ‘are you okay’, we need an industry approach that considers our unique issues at all levels of business.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) says it is time to get serious about mental health and wellbeing. We need to stop talking and start taking real action. For years we have discussed the issues, looked at the resources. But no more talk. We need to do something.

The ATA’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Committee recently put out a call to action. At our Trucking Australia conference in Perth earlier this year, the Committee opened their meeting to conference delegates and industry members, inviting them to join the conversation and make a difference.

The meeting was packed out with standing room only as participants offered their input about what can be done to improve mental health and wellbeing across the industry. The Committee was joined by Bettina Lentini, Head of Communications for Supply Chain & IT at Woolworths Group.

With the support of Woolworths Group’s Chief Supply Chain Officer, Bettina is on the steering committee of a new initiative ‘Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds’. The initiative is bringing the supply chain industry together to support the mental health and wellbeing of team members as they work throughout different businesses across the industry.

Development of an industry specific mental health and wellbeing action plan is essential if we are to achieve real outcomes. Our discussion at Trucking Australia offered significant insight and outlined key priority actions, seeing everyone walk away knowing exactly what measures need to be taken to get our plan into action. The actions are to: address suicide, develop skills and capacity, build positive driver image and improve self-esteem, address broader health and wellbeing, reach drivers on the road and in small business, and to address the role of the supply chain. To address suicide, delegates suggested that we must promote the suicide conversation in a proactive manner. The most emotional part of the conversation revolved around suicide by truck. For too long this issue has been spoken about in hushed terms rather than addressing the tragedy that it is.

To develop skills and capacity, we must enable the industry to recognise mental ill-health signs and symptoms and help those in need to find the support they need.

To build positive driver image and improve self-esteem, we must promote positive perception of the trucking industry and highlight its professionalism. To reach drivers on the road and in small businesses we must promote the mental health and wellbeing conversation and provide resources ‘on the road’ in places like truck stops and rest areas.

To address broader health and wellbeing, we must look at nutrition and fitness, improve medical standards and increase mental health and wellbeing screening. As an industry, we also need to use digital tools like podcasts that can assist in educating drivers about nutrition and other health topics.
We also need to engage the supply chain into this conversation and consider what can be done to lower driver anxiety and stress. This is also an opportunity to engage the larger operators like Woolworths, to share their programs with the industry and extend training programs to drivers.

These are positive actions that can make real change in helping to shape a mentally healthy industry. The high meeting attendance and the in-depth discussion highlights the commitment we, as an industry, have in tackling the issue head on.

We’ve discussed the issues.

We’ve identified industry priorities.

Now it’s time to act.

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