Society has come a long way in terms of how well we talk about and deal with mental health problems. But there’s still a long way to go, and too many people suffer in silence. What’s more, many factors can make the problem even worse for those doing courier work. Read on to find out how you or your colleagues may be at risk, and how to beat the stigma in a healthy and positive way.
Mental Health in the Industry
It’s easy enough to speak of mental health issues in the industry, but what evidence is there? A lot, as it turns out. Informed observers agree that psychological issues are especially difficult for drivers to talk about, with the Mental Health Foundation’s Chris O’Sullivan noting ‘widespread’ stigma in those who do courier work.
A recent survey by Mercedes-Benz Vans found that 56% of van drivers and owners believe there is a stigma attached to discussing mental health at work. Less than a quarter of managers report employees coming to them with issues – and the figure is even lower for male managers. Things are slightly more encouraging when we look at conversations that do happen, with over half of those who have talked about a colleague’s mental health problem with them saying they felt glad the colleague could confide in them. This at least suggests that starting a conversation is a good step, although a quarter felt uninformed and a fifth embarrassed in the same situation.
These statistics paint a worrying picture about mental health in courier work, especially as the job has so many elements that can put workers more at risk of problems.
The level of understanding of mental health is improving among professionals as well as in society in general, and that extends to its causes. The link between stress and a variety of illnesses is increasingly well documented, and Mind’s Emma Mamo notes that people who drive for a living are far more likely to experience many of the things that can lead to stress. These include long working hours, working alone, lack of support and irregular sleeping and eating.
Drivers will recognise all of these as par for the course on the job. Spending a long time at the wheel is in the nature of courier work, and varying and inconsistent demand for services makes it especially difficult to establish strong routines.
What do I do?
The first and most important step is to do some research on what you’re feeling. Organisations like Mind provide a variety of materials tailored to various different jobs. At the same time, research doesn’t have to mean spending two hours staring at a computer screen. You can and should take the time to ‘check in’ with yourself – ask questions like how am I feeling, have I been eating right, have I been sleeping enough and so on.
Next, you should know that a problem shared is a problem halved. Mamo recommends not just speaking to friends and family when you’re struggling, but letting them know what warning signs to look out for. Research from Ford, meanwhile, suggests that taking a drive can help, as two thirds of those who do courier work said they were more comfortable talking to colleagues while behind the wheel.
All in all, mental health is something everyone struggles with at times. Past attitudes, that struggling made you crazy or even weak, are thankfully fading. The travel industry isn’t special, but drivers need to recognise when they’re at risk and look out for each other. Because the best way to beat the stigma is by sitting down and talking it through.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world’s largest neutral trading hub for same day courier work in the express freight exchange industry. Over 5,400 member companies are networked together through the Exchange to fill empty capacity, get new clients and form long-lasting business relationships.