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Issue #1799      October 18, 2017

Union support on mental health

World Mental Health Day (October 9) is a reminder that a recent Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) survey found over one in five truck drivers have said they experienced mental health problems.

That is why the TWU is helping tackle mental health issues across the transport industry with a partnership with Beyond Blue and training across the union to ensure organisers and delegates are equipped to deal with mental health issues among workers.

The initiative will also move towards engagement of employers and clients on developing workplace policies on mental health.

There are many reasons why transport workers are more vulnerable than other professions to mental health problems: long hours away from family and the stresses that puts on relationships; low pay and poor working conditions; and in the case of truck drivers, high injury and fatality rates.

The TWU says that this initiative will seek to provide support to those living with mental health problems but also to make recommendations on what needs to be done to tackle them.

The survey of over 4,000 truck drivers found 918 stating they experienced mental health issues. A previous survey shows truck drivers have a 7-per-cent higher chance of developing depression than other Australians.

Suicide rates are also high among truck drivers. A study by Deakin University showed 323 truck drivers committed suicide between 2001 and 2010. An analysis by the Victorian coroner’s court shows truck drivers had the highest number of suicides out of any other profession, with 53 drivers taking their own lives between 2008 to 2014.

There are particular pressures on truck drivers which makes the job Australia’s deadliest and is the reason why one in three workers killed last year was a transport worker.

Often the cause of this pressure is the role played by retailers and manufacturers which continually lower their transport costs, financially squeezing for transport companies and drivers and forcing a race to the bottom in the industry. Because of this drivers are forced to speed, drive long hours and skip breaks just to support their families.

For anyone experiencing mental health issues please call 1300 DRIVER or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. The hotline is a terrific tool for drivers who may need help and who either cannot afford to visit a professional or find they need assistance when away from home and on the road.

Next article – Concerns over costs of NDIS

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