Mental health advocate Robbie Gooserooter Shefford is doing his bit to support truckies’ mental health, thanks to his latest initiative across the ditch.
Having struggled with mental health in the past, Shefford volunteers his time to raise awareness for mental health – spreading the message that it’s okay not to be okay.
A former firefighter, over a decade ago, Shefford had been struggling with his mental health and sought help. “I had mental health trouble and ended up in the looney bin for a couple of nights. I’m not proud of it but I’m not ashamed of it neither. My employer was aware of it and it didn’t become a problem until about six years later,” he explained.
“They sent me a letter saying I was being dismissed but I challenged it and I won – then I left. I had planned on leaving anyway but I wanted to do it on my terms, not theirs.”
For years, Shefford (left) has dedicated his time to support mental health, doing motivational talks for farmers, Lions Clubs and various companies’ headquarters and at events. But he was looking for a way to target long-haul truck drivers too, who are often on the road at all hours of the day and night.
If the truckies couldn’t come to him, he decided he would go out to them, purchasing a caravan which he could bring to rest stops, offering tea, coffee and biscuits, as well as a chat and friendly ear.
Though he initially planned to purchase a 40ft refrigerated trailer and convert it, the cost and time it would have taken, meant that idea was quashed.
Instead he has his trusty caravan, easily recognised by the large lettering that reads: “It’s ok not to be ok” and “It will be okay in the end, if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.”
“I want to take the message out to the people, bringing it from the bottom of a conversation pile where it’s barely talked about, to a dinner table conversation. This is all about getting out and talking to the truckies,” explained Shefford.
The caravan is teamed up with a Suzuki SUV that reads “Truck This & Truck That”. Though at times (especially when Shefford is event-bound) you might see it hooked up to his Nissan CK20, with a race tractor also in tow, which he built two years ago.
Shefford first started heading out to rest stops about a month ago and it’s been an immediate hit. “The week I started, I had about 75 people stop in, truckies, farmers, engineers, the police and random travellers. I park up and the truck drivers and farmers stop in. A lot of the truckies who can’t stop, give us a toot and a wave on their way past and then call in a couple of days later when they have the time to stop,” he said.
“The idea is to get out to the truckies during their breaks. And for those who are experiencing mental health problems, there’s that look of relief when they realise they aren’t the only ones going through it. Just being able to tell my story was enough for many drivers going through it to open up.”