Mental Health Awareness for HGV Drivers

Following Mental Health Awareness Week, we wanted to highlight the importance of maintaining good mental health, highlight how it affects HGV drivers, and provide some practical and simple ways to improve your mental health moving forward.

HGV drivers are essential workers, which became apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic. Without logistics companies, many businesses would have collapsed as a result of multiple national lockdowns. The pandemic also emphasised the importance of mental health, with many people struggling with their mental health during this unprecedented period.

Mental health charity, Mind, recently revealed statistics that showed 30% of self-reported work-related illness in the transport and logistics industry is due to stress, depression, and anxiety. Though this number is already high, it could be a fraction of the actual figure as many people choose not to disclose the real cause of illness to their employer. Mind also highlighted that 22% of workers have been diagnosed with a mental health illness, but less than half have told their employer.

Despite mental health being discussed in society more than ever before, there is still a lot of stigma and negative connotations around mental health. This can significantly impact people living with mental illnesses; it may worsen their conditions, discourage them from getting help, or affect their recovery. 

HGV drivers often work long hours in a role that requires deep concentration. They also have time constraints, delivery targets, and often face heavy traffic on a regular basis. As a result, HGV driving can be an isolating profession, and drivers are often required to spend extended periods away from their families.

Mental health illnesses can occur due to many causes, but social isolation, loneliness, and long-term stress can be contributing factors; factors that often impact HGV drivers.

 
Things you can do to help yourself

 

Food

Evidence suggests that what we eat affects our physical health and how we feel. So improving your diet can improve your mood, give you more energy, and help you think more clearly.

Eating regularly and choosing slow-release foods will prevent your blood sugar from dropping. When your blood sugar levels drop, you might feel irritable, tired, and have a low mood. Slow-release energy foods include pasta, rice, oats, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts, and seeds.

Keeping hydrated is also essential. If you haven’t drunk enough fluid, you may struggle to concentrate or think clearly. Therefore, it’s recommended that you drink around eight glasses of water a day. Other drinks will count towards your daily fluid intake but be aware of the caffeine and sugar they may contain.

Fruits and vegetables contain most of the vitamins, minerals, and fibre we need to consume to keep us physically and mentally healthy. Eating various coloured fruits and vegetables each day will ensure you’re getting a good range of nutrients. The NHS recommend consuming five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Your gut health is essential, and your emotional feelings can impact it. So it helps if you have plenty of fibre, fluids, and exercise regularly to aid healthy digestion. Foods that a particularly good for your gut include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, pulses, live yoghurts, and other probiotics.

It would help if you consumed enough protein and healthy fats too. Your brain needs protein because it contains amino acids that aid in regulating thoughts and feelings, and fatty acids such as omegas 3 and 6 promote healthy brain function. You can find healthy fats and protein in oily fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, nuts, olive or sunflower oil, milk, yoghurt, and avocados.

 
Exercise

Exercise is beneficial for your physical and mental health. For example, physical activity can improve your sleep by tiring you out by the end of the day. It also releases ‘feel-good’ hormones that will elevate your mood. In addition, it can help you manage stress or other challenging emotions.

You don’t need to run marathons or go to the gym five times a week, but there are many ways to increase your physical activity. Increasing your daily steps, going for a brisk walk, dancing, and even chores like gardening all count towards your daily exercise. But, of course, how much exercise you do and your intensity will vary from person to person, depending on fitness levels and how much time you have in your day-to-day life.

 

Reach out

If you’re feeling low or lonely, talking to a friend or family member you can trust and feel comfortable with might work best.  

Sometimes it can be difficult to confide in the people closest to you, so it might be better for you to talk to a therapist or use a peer support service. Talking can help you explore and understand your feelings and can help you develop a positive way of dealing with them.

If you want to get help and support with your mental health, Mind has a helpline and email service where you can find out information about where to get help locally, treatment options, and mental illnesses.

 

Helping someone else

 

If you notice a colleague, friend, or family member is struggling with their mental health, show them your support. Ask how they are or if there is anything you can do to help them.

Early signs of poor mental health may include:

  • poor concentration
  • being easily distracted
  • worrying more
  • finding it hard to make decisions
  • feeling less interested in day-to-day activities
  • low mood
  • feeling overwhelmed by things
  • tearfulness
  • tiredness and lack of energy
  • sleeping more or less
  • talking less and avoiding social activities
  • talking more or talking very fast, jumping between topics and ideas
  • finding it difficult to control your emotions
  • drinking more
  • irritability and short temper
  • aggression

If the person you’re concerned about doesn’t want help, don’t pressure them and respect their choices. Be patient and reassure them that you will be there should they change their mind. You can inform them where to get help or find resources, such as the Mind website.