As truckie Ian ‘Eno’ Taylor walked around chatting to drivers at the mental health awareness convoy in Coffs Harbour at the weekend, he realised why all the hurdles he’d had to jump to get the event underway had been worth it.
Almost all the drivers Taylor spoke to said they were either personally impacted by the issue of suicide, or knew Mark Haines, 52, or Tom Seccombe, 29, the two Coffs Coast truckies who took their own lives last year and whose memory the Grinding Gears and Burning Diesel event is held in.
“We need to hold events like this to raise awareness that suicide and mental health issues in the trucking community are affecting a lot more people than we actually realise,” said Taylor, who is also now a Lifeline North Coast ambassador.
“In our industry we need to bring the word suicide out of the darkness and shed some light on it and say it is okay to talk about it.
“If you’re not [feeling] right, it is okay to go and see a doctor, or talk to a friend, or pick up the phone and reach out for help.”
Taylor had been hoping for 150 trucks in this year’s convoy that set off from the Woolgoolga Industrial area for the carpark at the Coffs International Stadium on Saturday.
The fact that there were closer to 90 in the event’s second running didn’t matter to Taylor one bit. If the convoy, which Taylor hopes will also raise another $17,000 for Lifeline North Coast, just delivered the right message to one person, he knows it was all worth it.
“I can still remember that Monday when I got the phone call to come back to the yard and boss was standing there and told me that Mark had taken his own life,” said Taylor.
“That day I’ll never forget and if I can reduce the amount of people that have to go through what I had to that day I’m doing something positive.”
According to a recent Monash University study, suicide had become the second leading cause of death for truck drivers under the age of 30.
It also found one in five drivers suffered from severe psychological distress, almost double that of Australian men of the same age.
Taylor was grateful for the event backing of Health In Gear, which provides health and wellbeing support for the transport and logistics sector, but believes trucking as an industry can, and should be doing a lot more to help.
“I know there are a lot of places where you go and do inductions and you know where the first aid kit is, you know where lunch room is, but there’s nothing really about mental health, no phone numbers and support numbers.
“We need management trained up in seeing signs of mental health. Being trained when one of their drivers comes up to them and says, ‘I’m not doing that well’, instead of saying, ‘Harden up, and you’ll be right, get back out on the road’.”
For more details on how you can be involved in next year’s event, either as a driver, or sponsor, or make a donation to this year’s fundraising drive, visit lifelinenorthcoast.org.au.
- If you need support, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.