Archive for category Depression

Suicide prevention

By Jena Williams 

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As we have been recently rocked by the loss to suicide of one of America’s best known comedians, it seems a good time to bring up the topic of suicide here in our blog. While truck drivers are not at higher risk for suicide, according to an article in the New York Times, suicide can be contagious, especially in the wake of losing someone famous or well loved. This is why it’s important to recognize the warning signs, both in yourself and in others. Help is waiting. All you need to do is ask for it:

When someone is considering suicide the pain in their life feels unbearable. It’s so important to hold on to the knowledge that things won’t stay this bad. It will get better and there are people that do care enough to help.

I’ve spoken to people that have attempted suicide after something horrible happened that they didn’t think they could get past. Today life is not perfect, but it is better and they are so grateful to be alive.

I’ve spoken to people that have lost family members to suicide. They have never gotten over the loss or the guilt that they carry, even if the suicide had nothing to do with them. Someone loves you and will have a hole in their life forever without you. You mean more to someone than you can possibly imagine.

Signs to watch for from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

With the rise in social media such as Facebook, more people are posting their intentions to commit suicide online. If you see any of the warning signs in a posting, encourage the person to call the suicide prevention number at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you are a real life friend, talk in person to them about calling or call yourself. It’s completely confidential. You don’t have to carry the weight of your pain alone.

More information regarding suicidal postings on social media: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/gethelp/online.aspx

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What would you do to keep an experienced driver for ten more years?

By Jena Williams

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published the results of a study: Occupational Highway Transportation Deaths Among Workers Aged ≥55 Years – United States, 2003-2010. The study found that on-the-job highway transportation death rates increased substantially at age 65, especially in transportation and warehousing industries and in transportation and material moving occupations.

It might seem that the finding of this study is, well, obvious. To be blunt, we tend to expect older workers to die more. But I would caution you to dig a little deeper because I think there is some important information to be gleaned here.

Consider that in the general population, these types of deaths only begin to increase substantially at age 75 years.  Why would deaths increase a decade earlier for workers?

There are many possible reasons and theories for this. I’ll present mine here and hope you’ll add yours in the comments.

The editor recommends interventions to benefit older drivers. (I would argue that these interventions would actually benefit all drivers!) The first is that we need to do a better job of selecting and adapting vehicles to accommodate drivers.

There are many other recommendations as well, such as less driving, less nighttime driving, etc., but I would like to explore the idea of adapting vehicles to accommodate drivers a little more.

Consider that before most people buy a personal vehicle, they sit in it and take it for test drive. Generally, people don’t buy a vehicle that isn’t comfortable to them. Unfortunately, comfort may not be a priority when many companies purchase their vehicles. Instead fuel economy, aerodynamics, and cost take the forefront. Plus, a company’s workforce comes in all shapes and sizes, so initially tailoring vehicles may seem nearly impossible.

One might argue that physical comfort doesn’t really have anything to do with crash-related deaths, but I would disagree. Fatigue is fatigue, whether brought on by long hours or awkward postures. It is still worth considering.

As the article states and we already know, “…older workers bring a wealth of skills and experience to the workplace…” I think we can agree that keeping an experienced worker for an additional ten years is valuable in a market with a declining labor pool.

What kind of investment are you willing to make in a skilled worker to keep them around for another ten years?  Would you improve the stairs into the cab? Would you add or improve handholds? Would you improve adjustability in the seat? Would you improve the location of the steering wheel? All of these can be associated with excess strain and fatigue on the body, potentially increasing crash risk.

And one more question, would you ask them what they need to make their job safer and easier?

These are just some of my thoughts. What are yours?

Link to full report: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6233a1.htm?s_cid=mm6233a1_e

And for drivers – always wear your seatbelt. Always.

Security

By Jena Williams

No truck parkingEveryone has a fundamental need for safety and security. If we don’t feel safe, stress levels rise, affecting many systems of the body, including blood pressure, gastro-intestinal, and emotional health.

Whether it is the economy, apathy, or societal indifference, it appears that theft is on the rise. My parents have lived in the same house for over 25 years without a major incident. However, over the summer, their house was burglarized and now they are fighting identity theft. Last week our cars were prowled and my brother’s sheds were broken into. We all live in different areas of town. Our family has definitely felt the surge in crime and lack of security. We feel violated and stressed even though we never came face-to-face with our perpetrators.

Jason Rivenburg was not so lucky. Many of you know his story, but for those who don’t, Jason was a truck driver delivering a load to a South Carolina delivery site. He was ahead of schedule and not allowed to deliver early so he needed to find a place to park and sleep for the night. Ultimately, he ended up parking his rig at an abandoned gas station. That night he was robbed and murdered for the $7 in his pocket.

Jason’s wife responded by lobbying for the passage of Jason’s Law to promote the use of existing government facilities like weigh stations and inspection sites to offer free and safe parking facilities. Jason’s Law was included and passed in the federal transportation bill. Although, this is an important first step to improve driver safety on the road, it leads to the question, is there anything else we can do to promote safety for drivers? And, most especially, safe places to park and rest.

Drivers, is it safe to park in Washington? Where? Is there a location where safe truck parking needs to be made available? Please let us know in the comments below.

More about Jason’s Law: http://jhlrivenburg.com/cgi/wp/

Bureau of Justice Statistics: http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=4494

SHIFT into Health Gear

By Jena Williams

Several Washington trucking companies are currently participating in the SHIFT study. In the picture is Dr. Ryan Olson (principal investigator) and Kevin Bransford (graduate student in exercise physiology and research assistant) standing in front of the “RV of Science.”

SHIFT stands for “Safety & Health Involvement for Truckers, ” and it is focused on total worker health (eating, exercise, sleep, and safety). SHIFT is based at Oregon Health & Science University with funding from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

Since April of 2012, the RV of Science has been visiting trucking terminals on the I-5 corridor to enroll drivers. This study, which is projected to be the largest of its kind in U.S. history, plans to enroll 20 trucking terminals; 10 of those terminals will be enrolled by the end of 2012.

The main purpose of this five-year study is to learn how drivers manage their health and body weight over time. The project will also discover how stress and social support impact driver body weight and health.

So what’s in it for drivers?  At participating companies, each driver who volunteers will receive three free health assessments over an 18-month period.

Drivers are also paid for their time, get a SHIFT “swag bag,” and are entered into lottery drawings.  Based on random selection, some drivers also participate in a supplemental weight-loss competition and health-promotion program.

For more information and for public links to driver-health resources, please visit www.ohsushift.com. To participate in the SHIFT study, companies must operate at least two terminals with 50-100 drivers each.

While the majority of terminals have already been selected for the study, interested company leaders may contact Dr. Olson directly to discuss study requirements and opportunities at olsonry@ohsu.edu.