A 2018 study appearing in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found depression in truck drivers occurring at a higher rate than in the overall population, 13.6% as opposed to 6.7% of all American adults. What causes this disparity between the general population and commercial drivers when it comes to mental health? How can you tell if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, and if you are, how do you best combat them?
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the truck driver depression crisis, and 4 important tips to take care of your mental health and well being while on the road.
Warning Signs of Depression
Everyone has hard days and feels sad from time to time. It can be difficult to distinguish these normal feelings from what specialists define as ‘major depressive disorder,’ especially if you don’t know the signs to look for.
Mayo Clinic defines depression as a mood disorder with persistent feelings of sadness or loss of interest in your usual habits, often seemingly without a cause. Depression is not a feeling you can ignore or “snap out of,” and it can have a deep impact on your personal relationships and day-to-day life.
Symptoms of depression vary person to person, but there are a few key warning signs to look out for.
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness
- Frequent mood swings or outbursts of anger and irritability
- Change of usual sleep patterns, such as insomnia or oversleeping
- Lack of energy and tiredness, making even small tasks seem daunting
- Frequent or recurring thoughts of suicide or death
4 Tips to Overcome Truck Driver Depression
Because everyone’s experience with depression is different, there’s no “one size fits all” approach to coping with this mental health struggle. A profession like trucking can make finding a solution even more difficult at times, as commercial drivers often don’t have a routine schedule and can be away from their loved ones for long periods of time.
However, there are a few helpful strategies you can incorporate into your daily life to combat the stress and difficulty that can come with a career in trucking.
Tip 1: Recognize and React
For a long time, many people were afraid to admit if they were struggling with their mental health or fighting depression. Changing times has taken away this stigma, and the most important first step to finding a solution is recognizing the symptoms of depression in yourself.
Truck driving is one of the most dangerous jobs in America, and it can also be one of the most isolating. Admitting that you might be struggling with depression is not a sign of weakness, it’s actually the only way you will be able to feel stronger.
Tip 2: Maintain Your Personal Connections
One of the most challenging parts of being a trucker is to be away from home for long stretches of time. Feeling like you are missing out on key moments or just missing your loved ones can contribute to intense feelings of sadness. This is why it’s important to find out the ways that best work for you to remain connected to your family, friends, and home.
Establish a schedule to make calling home part of your routine. Video calling might not feel the same as being there in person, but it’s important to be reminded regularly of who is waiting for you when you get back. Apps that let you watch movies together remotely or virtual board games are other great ways to have fun with your loved ones even when you’re miles apart.
Tip 3: Prioritize Your Physical Health
Truck drivers often struggle to remain active or find affordable, healthy food while on the road. Physical well being is a large part of maintaining your mental health, so it’s important to prioritize both to avoid feelings of depression.
Finding time to exercise can be difficult, especially if you’ve been driving all day. However, even a few minutes of exercise throughout the week can help you to feel productive and increase your serotonin. Packing a lunch before hitting the road or planning out where you can find food that will give you energy and nutrients is another important step to keep your mind and body strong.
The power of good sleep also should not be underestimated. Not getting enough rest can have a great impact on your well being, and can also be dangerous when driving for long hours. If your truck also doubles as your bedroom, find ways to make it relaxing and comfortable. Be sure to take breaks whenever you can.
Tip 4: Ask for Help
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Depression can feel isolating, which can be made worse in a career like trucking. Many people struggling with depression might worry that they will be a burden on their loved ones and try to fight on their own. It’s important to remember that your family and friends know you better than anyone, and their support is essential to overcome something as serious as depression.
A lot of people fighting depression also seek medical help, either from their doctor or a mental health professional. Telehealth has made this option increasingly accessible, and can be a great option for those on the road. Visiting a professional, whether virtually or in person, can lead to the development of helpful coping strategies or the opportunity to find medication that could help.
Depression is a serious mental health struggle that has continued to rise in truck drivers across the United States. There’s no easy solution for fighting depression, but it’s important to find ways to relax, connect with your loved ones, and take care of your body and mind.
If you or someone you know are struggling with depression, the best thing you can do is seek help. If you can’t get in touch with your doctor, a great resource is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET. 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or firstname.lastname@example.org.