When ‘keep your chin up’ isn’t enough

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I picked up the paper this morning
And read all the daily blues
The world is one big tragedy
I wonder what I can do
About all the pain and injustice
About all of the sorrow
We’re living in a danger zone
The world could end tomorrow
But I’m not gonna let it bother me tonight
I’m not gonna let it bother me tonight
Tomorrow I might go as far as suicide
But I won’t let it bother me tonight

Life on the street is a jungle
A struggle to keep up the pace
I just can’t beat that old dog eat dog
The rats keep winnin’ the rat race
But I’m not gonna let it bother me tonight
I’m not gonna let it bother me tonight
The world is in an uproar and I see no end in sight
But I won’t let it bother me tonight … –Atlanta Rhythm Section

Depression affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. Persistent depressive disorder, or PDD (formerly called dysthymia), is a form of depression that usually continues for at least two years.

After losing a friend and fellow driver to suicide, Michael Suson, a 22 year trucking veteran, was prompted to do some research on the subject of trucking-specific mental health support. He was surprised to find little to none available, and decided it was time to change the situation.

Michael went to his safety director at Steelman Transportation, where he currently works. With 120 trucks, they’re considered a pretty small operation and the employees are fairly close-knit. Donna Underwood loved the idea Michael had of starting a Facebook group directed specifically towards helping other truckers with depression and suicide. Together, with a few close friends and the support of his wife and company, Michael started Truckers for Truckers (fighting against depression and suicide).

The group is described as a non-medical platform, where drivers experiencing issues with loneliness, isolation and anxiety can find people who have experienced the same feelings with which to discuss their own issues. Administrators and members on the page reach out, offer their phone numbers and a listening ear. Posts to the group page range from questions on how to deal with prescription refills while on the road to recommendations of good restaurants and safe places to sleep.

Response has been overwhelmingly positive for the most part, but as in anything related to the internet, there have been trolls and haters weighing in. This has caused the admins to insist members have some kind of tie to the trucking industry to participate – driver, spouse, child, etc. Comments to the effect of, “Oh great, another page for whiney babies,“ still occasionally pop up, but the administrators keep a diligent watch for them, and try to provide as non-judgmental an atmosphere as possible.

Erin Clark is one of those page admins, and he has this to say about the negative: “It’s a shame people can’t just leave each other alone, but when you’ve never battled those demons every day, you don’t understand it’s something you don’t choose to do. Just getting that message out is as important as being supportive of fellow drivers who do battle those demons, for whatever reason, every single day.”

Confidentiality is always a concern when it comes to mental health issues. It’s one of the few diagnosed illnesses people still feel compelled to hide. Michael and his admins on the page realize this, and private messaging is available to members of the group. Erin sums up the group objective with this: “We’re here to talk. If someone sends a message and needs to talk, I’m not going to give up until I’ve had a conversation with that person, just to let them know someone is here, and they’re not alone.”

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