'Speak up' Aussie truck driver tells Kiwi truckies in Mental Health Awareness Week, after losing son

Mental health advocates and the transport industry are encouraging truck drivers to take the load off themselves mentally, the message coming during Mental Health Awareness week.

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This story comes as the nation marks Mental Health Awareness Week. Source: 1 NEWS

Australian Craig Membry is a mental health ambassador and is in New Zealand to spread a very important message to his fellow truck drivers.

Mr Membry has decked out some of his beloved trucks in honour of his son, Rowan.

"I wouldn't want my worst enemy to go through how I go through every day with the loss of a son. And he would be following my dream with my family business," Mr Membry told 1 NEWS.

"Everyone's under pressure. But you've just got to deal with it, speak up and say, 'hey make it happen, we need help and we need to slow down.' Talk to your boss."

There are more than 26,000 truckies in New Zealand.

The profession is so short of workers, it's on the skills shortages list, adding to the pressure drivers face.

"It can be isolating. Long periods on the road by yourself, not getting the physical activity that you might get in a lot of jobs. And it's a pressurised industry," said Nick Leggett of the Road Transport Forum.

The mental health and wellbeing of truck drivers will be a key topic at the Road Transport Forum conference this week.

"It's tiredness, it's fatigue. Those are always risks, people having to take time off to recover from perhaps long shifts or stress, having to meet deadlines," Mr Leggett said.

"It's managing those things, ensuring that the right business systems are in place to recognise when drivers have problems."

Source: TVNZ

It's not just truck drivers though. Last year's overall suicide rate was the highest ever, at 685 deaths.

Shaun Robinson of the Mental Health Foundation said the key thing is "to be there with somebody" who's struggling.

"Just let them know that you care. Don't be judgmental, try to listen without judging. Just walking alongside someone, having a cup of tea, watching the rugby," he said.

Craig Membry said he wants everyone to ring up a friend, "because it's not easy to stand here and share my story about my boy". 

Simply checking in could make a real difference.