Nova Scotia Trucking Safety Association to roll out The Working Mind training

Long hours. Lonely days. Time away from home. These are just some of the challenges faced by the long-haul trucking industry.

Linda Corkum, the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Trucking Safety Association (NSTSA), saw an opportunity to better serve her provincial members by putting their mental health at the top of the Association’s priority list.

“The first thing we need to do is reduce the stigma,” said Corkum, acknowledging the culture of stoicism in the male-dominated industry. “And once we get people talking about mental health problems, we need to be prepared to do something to help them protect and promote their wellness.”

To follow on that promise, Corkum turned to The Working Mind (TWM), a Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) training program. TWM is designed to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, help people gain greater insight into their mental health, and provide them with tools to increase resiliency.

“What I love about The Working Mind is the plain language,” says Ed Mantler, MHCC’s Vice-President of Programs and Priorities. “It explains mental health as a state of being on a continuum, and we all have the capacity to go from green – being ‘good’ – to red, being ‘in distress,’ depending on how we are coping with life’s challenges.”

Truck drivers have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease and drug addiction than the general population. This isn’t surprising given the physical and mental stressors inherent to the job.

“The Working Mind gives employers and employees a common vocabulary to talk about these stressors, spurring frank discussions about what is needed to keep workers psychologically healthy,” says Mantler. “Breaking down communications barriers is an important step toward growing a workplace culture where supports are in place and it’s safe for employees to reach out.”

 Corkum agrees. “We know there will be a requirement in the not-so distant future where employers will have to implement psychological [safety] standards in their workplace. We are trying to get ahead of the curve to educate companies on the benefits and the positive impact they can achieve by removing stigma.”

Corkum’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In May, she was recognized for her forward-thinking approach, receiving a Champion of Mental Health in the Workplace Award from the Canadian Alliance of Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH).

The NSTSA is the first truck transportation association in Canada to step up and boldly address mental health problems with the provision of qualified TWM trainers to tackle the subject.  CAMIMH recognized Corkum for opening the conversation about mental health within the industry.

Mantler lauded Corkum’s game-changing efforts. “One in five workers may experience a mental health problem or illness in a given year, but five out of five will benefit from TWM training. Linda’s leadership is truly transformational.”