Of all the issues facing the trucking industry, driver health is one of the most prominent. Though many companies have programs in place or are sharing thought leadership on how drivers can stay physically fit, one piece is often missing: mental health.

Depression is one of the most common conditions I see among truck drivers. Missing home, having disagreements with loved ones from miles away, problems with dispatchers, the isolation associated with spending days driving alone, and general boredom are all common factors that can lead to depression.

What is depression? Put simply, depression is occurring when someone feels extremely “down-in-the-dumps” for an extended period of time. Drivers should be looking out for the following symptoms if they are concerned they may be suffering from depression:

  • Headaches
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Lack of energy
  • Irritability/anger
  • Lack of concentration
  • Slow movement
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Crying spells
  • Loss of interest
  • General sadness
  • Thoughts of suicide

It is important to be able to have contact with others as much as possible when you are feeling any of these symptoms.  Here are some ideas on how one can handle long-distance relationships and conversations to feel as fulfilled as possible:

  • When discussing serious subjects, especially with your partner, call them (or webcam, if possible) rather than texting or emailing in order to help with accurate communication.  Your tone of voice can often make a world’s difference in regards to working problems out or causing new ones!
  • Be sure to make your calls when you still have lots of energy.  If you call at the end of your day, your enthusiasm and attention may not be there as strongly.
  • Keep as much of a mix of email, phone, and old fashioned letters as possible.  Everyone is used to getting calls and emails – most people are not expecting things like postcards or handwritten letters.
  • Send a small and inexpensive gift to your loved one. This can mix things up a bit and make you feel more connected, especially if you send souvenirs related to the places you are traveling.

Most importantly, if you feel that you or a loved one had depression, anxiety, or is not feeling well in general, an appointment with a therapist or doctor is highly recommended.

Buck Black is a licensed therapist (LCSW, LCAC) in private practice who focuses on anger, stress, and relationships. He works from his office in Lafayette, Indiana as well as online at BuckBlack.com. Black also specializes in working with truckers and their families over the phone and on Skype at TruckerTherapy.com. You can also follow @TruckerTherapy on Twitter to learn more.