Healthy Heads mental wellbeing drive accelerates

By: Mark Gojszyk

With Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds releasing its roadmap for 2021–2024, the spotlight is on how industry can expand mental health awareness and access to services as well as implement prevention measures and ongoing support for employees

Healthy Heads mental wellbeing drive accelerates
HHTS' mental health roadmap


A major industry development took place away from the Brisbane Truck Show (BTS) spotlight, with mental health foundation Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds (HHTS) launching a membership drive to accompany the recent release of its industry roadmap.

The National Mental Health and Wellbeing Roadmap 2021–2024 outlines a three-year course of action to improve mental wellbeing within transport and logistics.

HHTS CEO Naomi Frauenfelder and chair Paul Graham were joined by National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) CEO Sal Petroccitto, who recently formalised an industry partnership with the foundation.

Accompanying the launch was a video from HHTS psychology advisor Arthur Papagiannis of AP Psychology.

Graham (pictured below with Frauenfelder and federal transport minister Michael McCormack), the incoming Australia Post CEO from Woolworths logistics arm Primary Connect, is grateful for the prompt recognition of HHTS as industry’s eminent mental health foundation, with its inception all the more timely through the rise of Covid-19.

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"We are a young foundation, we only really formed in August of last year, in the heart of the pandemic," Graham says.

"I think we really came together as an industry, which, as a large and competitive industry, is not easy.

"The thing about mental health is it does not single out anybody and, unfortunately, we’re on the lower rung of the ladder when it comes to mental health and wellbeing in our industry."

Graham recognises "the immense responsibility that the industry had in helping people eat and survive through Covid… but also the tremendous pressure that it placed on everybody in industry and how magnificently they responded to that pressure.

"It did increase the mental health issues that we saw in industry – I think it really brought home the need for a foundation," he says.

The involvement of AP Psychology, which specialises in workplace psychological safety, speaks to the foundation’s need for specific expertise to inform its strategy, interventions and the design of the roadmap, Graham adds.

"Obviously, while we understand our business, we don’t fully understand as a foundation the medical [requirements] or the complexity of mental health.

"It’s not just one diagnosis – it’s a very complex space, and we want to be a foundation that has our strategy unearthed by good data and expertise.

"That’s the key thing that we’ve really held up in the foundation – whatever we do, it has to have an evidence base behind it."


The roadmap framework aims to strike a balance between psychological research and the unique function and needs of industry, Papagiannis says in an explainer video.

"We know the industry faces significant challenges, from workload to fatigue to critical incidents and trauma," he says.

"Obviously a lot of truckies are on the road and exposed to those risks, right through to warehousing and distribution.

"Another big part we’ve identified is the high levels of isolation and disconnection… and we know those risk factors can play a big part in a person’s mental health and wellbeing."

Thus, the roadmap is made up of three key components: prevention, protection and support.

"Prevention is about preventing harm to people and building the foundations within workplaces to support the mental health and wellbeing of individuals," Papagiannis says.

"The second component is protection – so, how do we protect our people and how do we create workplaces that support that?

"The third component is support.

"How do we actually support the recovery journey of people who either are diagnosed with mental health conditions or concerns and wellbeing challenges, right through to preventing those concerns or mental health conditions from happening?"

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The roadmap consists of seven key evidence-based areas that the industry needs to address:

•  build leadership capability

•  increase awareness

•  build a better workplace culture

•  smarter work design

•  build resilience & coping skills

•  promote early intervention

•  support recovery.

"Leadership, capability and supporting awareness really goes across all three in prevention, protection, and support," Papagiannis explains.

"So, every step of the way, we’re looking at leadership and awareness across those three areas.

"And then, through the preventative space, we’re looking at targeting workplace culture and creating a psychologically safe culture.

"The other two key areas of focus are about building resilience and coping skills within people and upskilling both the workforce and leaders in early intervention.

"So, how can we intervene sooner, put the right strategies in place and interventions to really help the people get to a better place and ultimately thrive?

"And, finally, targeting the support recovery area. So, what are the systems, processes, interventions and the capabilities that are required in that space to support people when they are off work, potentially, or struggling with a challenge in life? And how can the workplace best support them?"

Papagiannis emphasises that the focus areas form the basis of an integrated approach.

"It’s not just one area we focus on, which is often what a lot of workplaces and industries do. They’ll focus on the awareness piece.

"We’re really taking a systemic approach to all of this."


Signing up as a HHTS member grants access to the foundation’s tools and resources, Frauenfelder says; notably, individuals and owner-drivers are able to sign up for free, while business membership cost depends on the size of the enterprise.

The development of the roadmap is seen as a significant step forward for HHTS.

"I’m thrilled to be taking this very first and very important step together here as an industry so you have a plan and way forward," Frauenfelder says.

"It’s not going to be easy, and it’s going to take time, but the time is now to start taking small tentative steps to help create an industry that we’re all proud to be part of.

"Our membership program will help us to equip these businesses and individuals with the tools and resources they need to take action.

"It allows us to assist them in supporting their journey in building work environments where people are healthy and thrive.

"But, if we’re going to drive systemic change, it will take a whole industry approach, from leaders to managers, business owners and employees, to manufacturers and suppliers, unions, associations and regulators, to all come together to tackle the specific mental health challenges that confront our industry."

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Included with a membership is the roadmap, operational guidelines and tools and resources, such as training tailored to the industry – with new developments provided as they become available.

"These tools are designed to provide practical steps to successfully implement the roadmap, assisting you to understand how to put psychological safety in place within your workplace and address these risk factors," Frauenfelder says.

"This includes assessing your current state of workplace psychology and safety to identify needs in those areas, understanding the actions you can take to create a thriving workplace, and you’ll also gain access to our handbooks that will support your leadership team and employees.

"The handbooks offer practical, easy-to-follow, easy-to-action, mental health and wellbeing tools and tips.

"Outside of business membership, you can also get on board as an individual.

"When you become an individual member, you’re tapping into something much bigger than just yourself. You become a part of a movement."

More recently, HHTS started a survey designed to benchmark where industry’s mental health and wellbeing.

"This is the first step in terms of baselining where industry is at, and we will then work AP Psychology to establish the ways in which progress against the Roadmap can be measured.

"In addition, we are undertaking a piece of work that will help us to develop a process whereby businesses can track and report on their own progress when it comes to psychological safety, as they work their way through the framework and maturity model.


Papagiannis says there are exciting times ahead for industry but challenges also abound.

He is under no illusion as to the scale of the task ahead and does not expect each workplace to possess advanced mental health capabilities by the three-year mark.

"We know it’s the first step towards the industry really making a significant impact, to creating environments and workplaces where our people can feel healthy, safe, and ultimately thrive in everything that they do," he says.

"Over the course of the next three years, every workplace will be in a different stage of maturity.

"Obviously for some, that may be building blocks and really kicking things off, to others being further along in that journey.

"But we’re hoping with everything we’ve produced and put together, the industry will be well supported to progress on that maturity journey to hopefully make some significant impacts.

"I’m hoping that in three years’ time, if we’re back here having this conversation, the shift and change has been significant and considerable and really made a big impact on the lives of people."

Frauenfelder tells ATN the future plan for HHTS will be to "build upon the experience of implementing the three-year roadmap, evaluations we have undertaken, what has worked well, what can be improved, and most importantly, what industry is telling us it needs".

Read about HHTS' involvement in an industry vehicle initiative, here

 Graham notes that, while this is a complex area, conversation has to happen to erode the pervasive mental health stigma in society and, particularly, within industry.

"We’ve got to talk about it as if it’s a head cold or a sore elbow," he says.

"We’re nowhere near there yet.

"We’ve done a fantastic job in industry around safety in the last 15 years but we’ve got an even bigger job [with] mental health and wellbeing and [we] can’t wait for 15 years to do that."

As part of the membership launch, Graham expands on the next steps for HHTS.

"The first step is education, training and awareness, creating good environments where people can get support and making sure that training is available whether you’re a single driver, owner-operator or the larger corporates.

"The second thing is working with governments of all levels to create standards around both regulatory standards and standards around rest areas – all the things that are frustrating and create anxiety within our industry.

"And the third thing is education to individuals about their own mental health and wellbeing and their physical health and wellbeing.

"We know those are both related. Many of the roles within industry don’t set them up for [good] physical [health] and wellbeing."

Graham also notes HHTS is currently working with Lifeline Australia on a proposal to have a dedicated crisis support line for those in the road transport and logistics industry, which could involve former drivers.

"This is in its formative stages but is ultimately part of the longer-term vision for the foundation."


Importantly, HHTS has unanimous backing from the industry regulator.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) CEO Sal Petroccitto, pictured below with Frauenfelder and Graham at the membership launch, recalls his own conversations with NHVR director Robin Stewart-Crompton about the foundation’s ambition.


"This is a really exciting project for us," Petroccitto says.

"It was a no brainer for the regulator… so much so that the organisation has contributed $150,000 over three years to continue to support this initiative.

"The last 18 months have probably demonstrated just how much resilience is in the industry, but I’ve seen some of the pressure building up and we need the avenues and we need the tools and we need the discussions to occur, and this initiative really does provide that.

"It’s something that I think we all wholeheartedly need to embrace."

Petroccitto observes abundant activity in the mental health space but says bringing it all together under one banner was an important step, comparing it to the challenge of establishing an overarching national regulator in a fragmented industry.

"Having an organisation and a focus that, to some degree, was across the whole sector – it’s not just about the driver, it’s not just about the operator, it’s about those that sit in the warehouse or might sit in the workshop, or even my office.

"Mental health cuts across all industry.

"It’s initiatives like this that I think we start to see that shift that we’ve been seeking, and I think there are going to be some challenges.

"I’m speaking from experience in terms of trying to establish a national regulator cutting across multiple jurisdictional activity.

"There are over 50,000 operators and around a million heavy vehicle combinations.

"If we all work together, I know we will be successful.

"I’m really also pleased that the organisation has made the decision to allow owner-drivers to join for free." 


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