Trucker Takes Action To Help Fellow Drivers Fight Depressionby Jana Ritter - Published: 1/06/2017
Truck driving currently employs roughly 800,000 Americans and for those who don’t like the 9-5 office grind, it’s one of today’s few remaining professions that allows you to travel on the open road and earn a decent income with plenty of jobs to choose from. But long hours of solitude can also take its toll and one truck driver is bringing awareness to the long unspoken problem of depression among his fellow drivers.
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“The inside of that truck is smaller than a jail cell,” explains Michael Suson in a recent interview with Vocativ. Suson says he has battled with depression off-and-on during his 23 years as a long haul driver and after losing a friend who took his own life; he’s made it his mission to help other drivers who are privately struggling behind the cab doors. Six months ago, he launched the Facebook group, Truckers for Truckers, which is a private peer support group for drivers dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. Since the, the group has quickly grown to nearly 2700 members and has become a lifeline for those feeling isolated behind the wheel. “I’m not trying to be a celebrity off an issue that few people are talking about. I’m just trying to do my best to help a fellow driver when he has nowhere else to turn to.”
While there are many drivers who do manage to find a healthy balance between home and road time, and there are also certain types of people who actually prefer their own company and the freedom of being on their own, others don’t always fare so well. Long stretches on the road can make it difficult to maintain personal relationships and spending too much time alone with your thoughts can also cause you to become more focused on your problems. Irregular sleep patterns and an unhealthy diet can also be major contributors to depression as well. Buck Black is a licensed therapist who specializes in counseling truck drivers and their families. He says there is a lack of resources for truck drivers in general and that on-line support groups can be extremely valuable to those needing immediate help and regular support. “If you just find one other person that can make all the difference,” Black says.
For truck driver Don Combs, Suson was that one person who made all the difference. After too much time away from home cost him his relationship and lost too much time away from his daughters, Combs says that he fell into a dark hole of drinking, depression and ailing health that eventually just made him want to give up on life all together. ”I didn’t want to live anymore, to be honest with you,” he says. A concerned friend contacted Suson through Truckers for Truckers and asked him to help. So Suson gave Combs a call. “I was kind of apprehensive about pouring my guts out to a stranger,” Combs recalls. But they ended up talking for hours and he credits Suson for saving his life and for convincing him to get regular counseling.
Suson says that it’s extremely important for someone in distress to have a reliable source of support to turn to for immediate help and that is what his group offers. Sometimes it’s just a matter of needing to talk to someone you can relate to and the members of the group also know to encourage someone who is severely depressed to get counseling or other professional services as well. “If we can’t help someone, we’ll put them in touch with whoever they need,” Suson says.