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Mental health support needed for truck drivers: Linfox

Australian truck drivers suffering mental illness are less inclined than other workers to seek appropriate medical help according to findings in a Monash University report released this week.

Even drivers who sought out medical attention received delayed treatment despite having significantly more GP consultations in addition to being admitted to more surgeries than other workers following work-related injury or disease.

The report revealed that 55 per cent of drivers use only a few services available to them; 25 per cent mainly use physical therapy and nearly 10 per cent were treated for mental health.

Drivers accessing mental health services were older than 24 and from the lowest socio-economic band, employed by smaller companies.

92 per cent of mental health services were provided 14 weeks after acceptance of a worker’s compensation claim suggesting opportunities for early intervention might have been missed.

It runs contrary to other health care services like physiotherapy and GP appointments where peak service use occurs within the first three months following injury.

High health service users tended to be between the age of 45 and 64, reside in major cities and suffer from musculoskeletal conditions.

Funded by Linfox, the Driving Health Study is an initiative partnered by the Transport Workers Union and NSW Centre for Workplace Health and Safety.

This, the third study issued in the report, analysed 88,285 accepted Victorian workers’ compensation claims between July 2004 and June 2013.

Findings generated from it are expected to help offer insights that keep drivers safe at work and ensure they are accessing the proper treatment they need when injuries occur.

A concerning trend among truck drivers suffering mental health injuries, according to Dr Ross Iles, Monash University School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, revealed 92 per cent were waiting more than three months to access appropriate treatment.

“This report shows that truck drivers receive the majority of health care more than three months after an injury, but this delay was particularly apparent in mental health cases,” said Dr Iles.

“Prior studies show that drivers are at increased risk of suicide. Combined with our findings, this suggests a need to provide earlier access to mental health care in this group of workers.”

The industry needs to do more to address the stigma surrounding mental health according to Mark Mazurek, CEO Linfox Australia and New Zealand.
“As an industry, we need to do better in dealing with mental health and removing the stigma that can prevent people from seeking help when they need it,” he said.

“It’s clear that Australian truck drivers are particularly vulnerable to injury and we need to work together as an industry to develop proactive strategies to minimise these risks. This includes understanding the risk factors and ensuring greater access to health support services,” said Mazurek.

“At Linfox, our Healthy Fox program is focused on enhancing the health and wellbeing of our workforce through education, and through our partnership with Beyond Blue, we’re actively working to ensure mental health is discussed out in the open.”

Ross said further research was needed to better support the transport industry to manage the risks to driver health.

“This data provides important new insights into patterns of care, but it is only part of the picture. In 2019 we will recruit thousands of truck drivers into a new study that will provide much more detailed information about health and health risk factors in drivers,” said Ross.

The research, supported by Linfox, will reportedly commence the largest known survey of truck driver health in Australia.

It will explore serious conditions thought to be common in drivers, including depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and sleep apnea.

(Image: Mark Mazurek Linfox CEO Australia and NZ).

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