Truck Driving & Mental Health

The Marlboro Man, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry, the star quarterback, the ace pitcher…we men have these idols; guys who stand alone – seemingly – and save the team, rescue the woman, solve the problem. And we think that if we admit to a problem; a problem within ourselves, we’ll be perceived as weak. And nothing could be worse than appearing weak in front of those we want to impress.

So we don’t talk about the unsettling thoughts running through our heads. We don’t talk about the pain we feel when we’re alone. We don’t talk about how we feel we’re letting down those around us. We don’t talk about unrealized, unspoken, unmet goals and dreams. We desire close friends but we don’t open up to those people who are ideal candidates to be lifelong friends.

It’s easy to know we need help and be willing to seek help when we have a crushed finger, or we’re bleeding, or we can’t walk without a dramatic limp. But when the problem is unseen those weakness-shunning tendencies are harder to push aside.

Mental health problems are just now starting to receive the attention they deserve. And truck drivers (a position with many more men than women) may be more prone to the sickness than other vocations.

Larry Kahaner has a fantastic article up at FleetOwner.com about mental health and the issues surrounding this touchy topic.

“Men don’t seek care, especially mental health care, as readily as women. This is amplified by an industry that’s primarily men and a hyper-masculine industry at that.  You have DOT regulations that make it difficult, if not impossible, for medications that could really help,” says Mona Shattell, Professor & Chairperson, Community Systems and Mental Health Nursing at Rush University’s College of Nursing.

On top of everything else, drivers, who are frequently paid by the mile, fear that if they admit to mental problems they will be removed from the road and unable to pay bills.

The ability to drive with mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression – with or without medications – is a judgment call by the medical examiner. Drivers are reluctant to admit to these health issues to physicians or their managers and get the help they need because they risk losing their medical certification.

I encourage all you drivers – especially you men – and all of you reading. Be willing to talk to a professional about your mental health concerns/issues. Get the help you need. It isn’t a sign of strength to deny a problem, but to admit you need help. A job can be replaced. But a life cannot.

Thanks for reading.

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