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SOCIAL RECONNECTION FOR AUSSIE TRUCK DRIVERS

We are social creatures and while it’s true that we all have different requirements when it comes to community and social connection, long term isolation in the structure of the modern Australian lifestyle can be an issue.

Truck drivers are the backbone of Australia, not only in the transport industry but in all facets of Australian life. The vital work they do moving necessities from one end of Australia to the other cannot be understated.

Modern Australia’s growing dependence on online, international shopping, as well as key parts of the nation being responsible for our food needs, means we rely on truck drivers to keep Australians fed, clothed, entertained, and connected.

CLINICAL DATA

According to Monash University’s Driving Health Report, which looked at the physical and mental health of Australian Truck Drivers, 37 per cent of participants reported having moderate psychological distress. Compared to the same age group in other occupations, this was almost 22 per cent higher than the national average.

The report also indicated that general health outcome was 50 per cent worse for truck drivers than the national average in all age groups.

There are clear indications that distress increased when compounded with severe ongoing health issues and chronic pain.

Days behind the wheel can be long, and the bulk of Australian truck drivers work a 60-hour week, predominately in social isolation.

This impacts the maintenance of social connections, with many drivers stating that they feel as though they miss out on the lives their family and friends lead.

TALK IT OUT NOT TOUGH IT OUT

One of the key aspects suggested when juggling mental health issues is to talk it out.

While it’s not a cure-all, in any respects talking can be the first step to making progress with emotional health and well-being.

This can be easier said than done, especially when challenging dominant culture in the trucking industry, which promotes the stereotype of a stoic, silent and hardworking truck driver.

GOT YOUR MATES BACK

Friendship and camaraderie can play a key role as well.

The Gotcha4Life Foundation launched the Mind Your Mate program to encourage people to connect with their mates and have healthier conversations. To talk about what’s truly going on in their lives and build solid social and emotional community connections.

Gotcha4Life is an Australian not-for-profit foundation with the goal of zero suicides and building mental fitness. The Mind Your Mate program focuses on talking openly and honestly with a friend, as part of an early intervention process to prevent suicides in Australia.

The ongoing issue of social isolation for Australian truck drivers can mean it’s difficult to rely on social connections to talk. By way of a pledge system, the Mind Your Mate program is an avenue of communicating and building social connections. It encourages participants to identify a close friend – being someone they know they can talk to about anything, without judgement, no strings attached.

PLANNING A CATCH UP

While the wheels of change are slowly turning, and truck drivers are looking out for one another more and more, further steps can be taken to build social connection and improve emotional wellbeing.

Creating groups on social media or chat threads to check-in with one another can be a great way to connected on the road.

Scheduled phone calls can reinforce family ties and friendships, giving truck drivers the opportunity to catch up on everything or chat about shared interests and hobbies that they are passionate about.

DIGITAL HOBBIES WITH REAL WORLD IMPACT

Digital marathon apps are a fun trend featuring famous walking trails from around the world.

You can share your progress and have digital walking groups which gives you the chance to share an activity which is healthy and fun and support one another with shared goals.

There are even options for fantasy and sci-fi marathons such as walking or jogging through Middle-earth.

Other hobbies such as sharing an audio book with family and friends are a great option to share the same activity, while geographically separated.

Audio books can be downloaded through streaming apps, or through online libraries so that data is not a requirement. Grab a Bluetooth speaker and make sure the book is downloaded before you leave on the long-haul trip and you can listen along with loved ones and discuss the chapter via social media as you go.

Digital hobbies and shared interests can’t always replace the time we feel we have lost when not in physical proximity to those we care about, but they can be a solid option of maintaining social connections while apart.

To learn more about Gotcha4Life and the importance of building strong communities checkout Trucks for the People, by the People.

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