With Mental Health Awareness Week officially taking place between 15th – 21st May this year, we’re showing our support for the lone workers who spend their careers travelling the lengths and breadths of UK roads. Long distance driving is no easy task, and more often than not, checking in can go mean more to someone than a fleet manager may first realise.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), almost 18 million sick days are taken a year due to poor mental health, and a recent report from The World Health Organization highlights a 25% increase in anxiety and depression worldwide, with 1 in 4 adults in the UK suffering from a mental health issue.
What’re more, latest Government figures from ONS Suicides in England and Wales show that men between 20 and 49, are more likely to die from suicide than cancer, road accidents or heart disease, with suicide rates being 3 times higher in men than women.
The truth is, mental health conditions used to be considered a source of shame and embarrassment, and it’s taken too many years for us to break that stigma and accept the fact that good mental health is as important as good physical health.
Nowadays, mental health and wellbeing is more openly spoken about than it used to be, and with organisations such as MIND in addition to celebrities and sports personalities talking openly about their own mental health and a generation that is generally more communicative, it feels like we’re finally at a point where we’re a lot more comfortable having conversations around our mental health. So much so that businesses across the country are making a real effort to raise awareness, support their staff, and ultimately, change their mindsets.
But sometimes that’s easier said than done.
How can we make a real difference to those workers who are not in our line of sight, who we don’t physically see every day in an office and who spend their 40 hour working weeks almost entirely isolated?
Let’s explore what it means to be ‘lone’, but not alone.
Raising mental health awareness for long distance drivers
In 2018, Mercedes-Benz surveyed 2,000 van drivers in Britain with the results showing that despite that as a society we are better at talking about mental health, 56% of drivers surveyed believe “there is still a stigma about discussing mental health in their industry.” In fact, 24% of drivers who had a colleague confide in them about a personal mental health issue said they felt uninformed, 21% admitted to feeling embarrassed and 17% saying they didn’t know what to do or say.
Head of Workplace at the Mental Health Foundation Chris O’Sullivan commented on the importance of “challenging the stigma” of mental health issues in a male dominated industry and to “encourage open and honest conversations about mental wellbeing,” highlighting that making changes within organisations to champion good mental health and support drivers could not only change lives, but save them.
How can fleet managers support drivers?
Open and honest conversations and communication are key to establishing a safe space for any drivers struggling with their mental health. Not everyone finds it easy to open up about their feelings, but creating an environment that makes it as easy as possible to have those early conversations may make ongoing communication easier.
Here are a few ways to let your drivers know you’re there for them:
- Lead by example – if you feel you are able to, talk about a time when you needed help or support to show your team that it’s completely normal and very common to need help when it comes to mental health issues.
- Reach out to drivers individually – check in with your drivers and make sure they know you’re there if you need them for anything, including talking any struggles they may be having mentally.
- Reiterate the importance of good mental health within your organisation – let your drivers know that you take their overall wellness seriously, including both physical and mental health.
- Let drivers know it’s completely confidential – people may be worried what people might think if they seek help. Let them know that everything they talk to you about will stay private.
- Make sure everyone is aware of support services – it’s one thing having services available, but you need to ensure your drivers know how and where to access support.
- Host a companywide discussion about the challenges of being a driver so your drivers know they aren’t alone.
Although things won’t change overnight, it’s important to start putting a strategy in place to start.
Long distance drivers may need more support than you think, and reaching out and having initial conversations is the first step on a much longer journey. After all, every journey has to start somewhere.
With you from A to B, and everywhere in between
Whether your drivers have just set out on their next journey, or they’re on the return stretch, Egertons will be right there to support your lone workers when you need us most.
With vehicle rescue and recovery services stretching from breakdown to specialist assistance, we’re committed to supporting your drivers no matter what, where, when or how.
Just give us a call, and we’ll do the rest.