Help for traumatized truckers

by Carroll McCormick

MONTREAL, Que. — It is a remarkable example of what a dedicated effort can achieve: Less than three years after Patrick Forgue and his partner Kareen Lapointe began an awareness campaign about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in truckers, last December they announced the launch of a pilot project designed to treat truckers after traumatic accidents.

Called Prevention, it is a collaborative effort between SSPT chez les Camionneurs (unofficially translated as PTSD Among Truckers), which Forgue and Lapointe founded in 2016, department of psychology researchers at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal (UQAM), and psychoeducators from Groupe JP Robin, and the partnership of the Quebec Trucking Association. It is being funded with a $157,200 budget from Quebec’s Ministry of Transport.

The objective of Prevention is to provide rapid support, within seven days of an accident, to truckers, to both support them in the early days after an accident and help prevent the debilitating effects of PTSD. The program will be offered to about 50 truckers in 2019, after which its effectiveness will be evaluated before making it more widely available throughout the industry.

The genesis of Prevention can be traced back to Forgue’s own experience with a suicide-by-truck in 2013, after which he suffered from, among other things, panic attacks and weight loss. (Other symptoms of PTSD in truckers can include the inability to resume work, substance abuse, social isolation, frequent hospitalization, and marriage difficulties).

As part of his healing, and his realization that the “get back in the saddle” mentality in the industry was wrong, Forgue and Lapointe created the Facebook page SSPT chez les Camionneurs, and then a non-profit organization in 2017. Their goal has been to come to the aid of truckers with PTSD following a suicide-by-truck or other traumatic events.

Dr. Cecile Bardon is a researcher in the department of psychology, UQAM, and the director of the Prevention program. In a video (in French), the link to which can be found on the Quebec Trucking Association website, she describes the program.

“(We are) evaluating a study of prevention for traumatized truckers involved in accidents. If you are involved in an accident, you may be contacted to participate in this research project. Participation means taking a prevention program, with the presence of a psycho-educator…who is specifically trained to give this program. The participation is completely free. The program is completely confidential. That means that neither your employer, the SAAQ nor the CNESST (Commission des normes, de l’equite, de la sante et de la securite du travail) will know that you have participated, nor what you will say or not say, nor do or not do during your participation.”

Once a trucker has agreed to participate, there will be an initial evaluation. Then there will be one to six sessions with a psycho-educator, in person (meeting at home is an option) or on the phone – it’s the trucker’s choice. The duration and number of sessions will depend on the need established by the psycho-educator.

The trucker will receive another evaluation two months after his/her accident.

The objective of the program, Dr. Bardon explains, “is to discuss what is a serious accident…and how initial symptoms become more serious in the future, like depression and PTSD. A goal is to reduce this and manage this…also to communicate to professionals if longer-term care is needed following an accident.”

A Dec. 3, 2018 Quebec Trucking Association press release, translated, calls out to its members: “ACQ (L’Association du camionnage du Quebec) is an important partner in this pilot project and ACQ member companies will be able to participate in the project, which incurs no cost for employers and truck drivers. In the event of a serious accident starting now and throughout 2019, we will need your help to identify and contact the truckers involved in order to propose that they participate in the pilot project, to receive the program and to participate in its evaluation. For that, we could contact you, in order to identify the truckers of your company who would have had a serious accident on the road in order to propose to them that they participate in our study.”

Dr. Bardon says, “If you have a highway accident, in the week following the accident, your employer or association may ask you if it is ok for (the researchers) to contact you. (The researchers) will answer your questions and ask if you want to participate.”

She also notes that truckers can recommend colleagues by contacting Felix.Sarah@courrier.uqam.ca.

As for any ongoing obligations or possible effects on any other help that a trucker may be eligible to receive, Dr. Bardon assures, “If you decide at any point the program is not for you, no problem. It will not change the services you will receive from your employer, the SAAQ nor CNESST.”

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  • Very early in my driving I had 3 very minor events. No people or property damage and repair costs minimal, under $20.00 in total, 1 cost nothing but 5 minutes time to set straight.
    Like a good driver, I reported them to safety.
    1 was deemed not to have been my fault and the others were because of lack of experience. While certainly not remotely in the class of this programme, it did have an impact on me. Even a talk over a coffee would have helped but no, the carrier dropped the boom on me big time and gave me the sack over the telephone alongside the highway. That in itself was probably illegal but that was ages ago. Since then I have had a clean slate.
    It dorsn’t have to be a big thing for a driver to have an impact on them. As long as someone, even someone in the office, can speak with them is important and in scenarios like the scope of this article, something long over due. The days of “suck it up and drive on” are history.