Did you know that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year in the UK? What’s more, professional drivers have been identified as a high-risk group when it comes to mental health. And overall, the number of reported cases is on the rise. There’s been progress in recent years, but some people are still not comfortable talking about this issue.
We talk readily about our physical health, so why should mental health be any different? We hope the information on this page might help to start a conversation.
Mental Health at work – a few facts
- 15 million working days were lost to stress, anxiety, depression or other serious mental health issues in the UK in 2017*
- Productivity is one of the biggest challenges facing the UK economy today – reducing absence from work due to mental health issues benefits the whole of society
- Your workplace environment can cause stress – or it can make the stress you already have much worse
- It’s reckoned that 95% of people who call in sick due to stress often cite a different reason
*ONS ‘Sickness absence in the UK’ report
Why are professional drivers a high-risk group?
- Drivers work in an unpredictable environment, with outside pressures such as traffic, delivery deadlines, noise and more, all disrupting the working day
- The ‘average’ driver’s lifestyle has many features that increase risk:
> Lots of time sitting down (finding time for proper exercise can be really hard)
> Often poor diet (it can be tempting to rely on fast food on the go)
> Lack of regular, quality sleep (and fatigue is reckoned to be a factor in 20% of road collisions)
> Long periods on your own (loneliness is the top mental health issue reported by drivers)
- The majority of professional drivers are male – and men are slower to seek help about mental health issues
- Don’t wait to do something about mental health. The sooner you address an issue, the faster things can get better.And simple, small changes can make a big difference
- Talking to colleagues or your manager about mental health can be difficult, but it’s really important. Make some notes beforehand. Once people know that you’re having a tough time, they can help – and you will find that people want to
For an immediate stress-reducer during a tough day, consider simple breathing exercises. Look up the “4-7-8 breath” – try it, and see how quickly you feel so much more calm.
Tips for drivers
If you’re at all concerned about your own mental health, consider the following simple and widely used approach – 5 Steps to Wellbeing*:
5 Steps to Wellbeing
Social relationships are a crucial ingredient in your mental health – reach out and talk to people, and really listen
2. Be active
Regular exercise and good physical health will boost your mental health. It doesn’t have to be intense, but make it a habit
3. Take notice
Be aware of all the little things happening in the world around you. As a driver, you have a constantly changing view. Enjoy it!
4. Keep learning
Keep your brain active. Read during your break or do a puzzle. And what better place than the cab of a vehicle to learn a new language?
Doing something good for other people really is good for the soul. People who say they like helping others also tend to rate themselves as happy
*New Economics Foundation
Tips for employers
- Make mental health a priority for your business. Consider signing the Mindful Employer® Charter – visit www.mindfulemployer.net for more information
- Promote openness about mental health. Sharing the information on this page might help to get people talking about it. Start the conversation
- Make sure people take breaks. You already observe the laws that govern the road transport industry, but go one step further – seek to ensure that your people are getting proper, quality downtime
- Routinely monitor the mental health and wellbeing of your staff. Scheduling regular 1-2-1s can be tricky when your drivers are on the road, but make this a priority, and include open questions (such as “How are you feeling?”) as part of the conversation
- Ensure that all staff know who they can go to (not just their line manager) for a confidential chat
If you need help with your own mental health, or you’re concerned about a friend or a colleague, there are many resources out there. Here are just a few you might consider:
- Mental Health UK – Four UK mental health charities working together to improve the lives of people with mental illness www.mentalhealth-uk.org
- Mind – promoting the views and needs of people with mental health problems www.mind.org.uk
- NHS Choices Moodzone – information to help you cope with stress, anxiety, depression, or just the normal emotional ups and downs of life www.nhs.uk
- Samaritans – a safe place to talk, any time you like, about whatever’s getting to you www.samaritans.org (or dial free on 116 123
This online resource page was prepared with the support of Mindful Employer® – www.mindfulemployer.net
It has been prepared as a guide only and should not be taken as an authoritative document. Driver Hire Group Services Ltd, its associated companies and Franchisees accept no liability for any errors or omissions. If you have any questions about mental health, you are strongly advised to seek professional medical advice.