Our willingness to speak up on mental health concerns has evolved rapidly over the past five years.
When I first entered this industry thirty years ago, people simply didn’t talk about personal or work inflicted challenges and doing so was deemed to be inappropriate.
When an issue came to the surface it was swept under the rug and we moved on with minimal intervention.
As I reflect on this mentality, I can recognise the prevalence of stigma and how it negatively impacted help-seeking behaviour.
Back then, stigma wasn’t recognised and mental health was not at all part of our lexicon. Like our industry, mental health knows no borders.
Throughout life we all move up and down the mental health continuum depending on what is happening around us.
Those who work in the logistics sector, from drivers, forklift operators, pickers and packers, fleet schedulers, administrative staff and others, all face a unique set of challenges and as a result, a tailored approach to building resilience and adequate support mechanisms is vital.
From a personal perspective, I became increasingly aware that discussions around rising mental health concerns were coming up more frequently around the time that I was Chair of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA).
In response to these emerging conversations, the ATA facilitated a mental health focused session at our 2019 annual conference, looking at how the industry could move forward and drive positive mental health and wellbeing outcomes across the sector.
This event attracted an unprecedented turnout, with attendees spilling out of the room to listen in.
It was at this moment that it became abundantly clear, people in our sector are not just focused on fuel economy, fleet maintenance, fatigue management, and regulation.
These are all important day-to-day jobs and responsibilities, but the mental wellbeing of people in the sector was clearly a significant area of concern.
Conference delegates concluded that the industry should endorse a unified approach to addressing the key industry-specific mental health and wellbeing risk factors.
People at all levels of the sector wanted to see an initiative with no boundaries, no borders and that spoke directly to our people.
Two years on, I am proud to see that the road transport, warehousing and logistics industries have a dedicated national Foundation aimed at promoting prevention and understanding of mental health issues.
That Foundation is Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds (HHTS).
In taking the time to listen to those who make up this essential industry we are now able to deliver targeted support for everyone across the sector, from owner-operators, small to medium businesses and larger corporations.
As a Board Member of HHTS, I am proud to have been on the journey to building an industry that values psychological safety as much as it does physical safety. With a unified effort, ongoing commitment to share information and providing tailored support, our industry will see great improvements.
Going forward I see many more opportunities to make meaningful change across industry culture, not only to reduce stigma around mental health but also our efforts to celebrate true diversity and inclusion. There are wonderful career prospects in our remarkable Australian transport industry, which should be open to anyone regardless of their background.
It’s often said that there is no silver bullet to solve every problem, but the small steps we take today will go a long way to ensuring this industry is one that people are proud to be a part of in the future. Seeing where we are today alone, makes all the effort so far worthwhile.
Ron Crouch Transport