1st February 2023
“It was amazing how the interest in what I was doing amongst the commercial vehicle community grew, everyone was so interested”.
Caroline, Burnell, Head of Marketing and Communications, eStar
Fitness to drive – stress at work
Even on our best days, stress can prevent us from being fully focused and doing our best work. Too much of it can lead to burnout, disengagement, more sick days, and strained relationships in the workplace.
Unfortunately, many people still fear to talk about their mental health and choose to suffer in silence. Starting a conversation about mental health doesn’t have to be difficult, and we catch up with Caroline Burnell who is passionate about helping others, raising awareness, and highlighting such an important topic wherever she can. Experiencing first-hand how family members dealt with poor mental health and the impact it had on family and friends, Caroline was determined to understand more and be there for when support was needed.
Mental Health in the automotive industry
Caroline tells me her career and passion for all things automotive comes from her dad who worked in the automotive industry for over 25 years.
“He used to take me to the hospitality events that companies laid on and I was hooked! I even did my work experience at school with my dad who was working for an online car sales business at the time. I was placed with the marketing team, which included a two-day trip to London to spend time with their PR agency. I was so lucky to have the opportunity to work with the same PR agency again when I was at university and even ended up working there, full time which was the start of my career”.
“I landed a role at Mercedes-Benz UK, and over the eight years I was there, my role evolved to incorporate internal communications and events, as well as founding the charity committee. I had an extremely supportive manager who helped me to grow my confidence and abilities. It was here that the company invested in me, and I trained as a Mental Health First Aider”.
Caroline says with family experience of poor mental health, “I just wanted to know more and soon I was engaging with drivers and vehicle owners about a wide range of issues, including food and nutrition, hydration, the impact of parking restrictions and traffic, general health and visiting the doctor (or not, as it turned out to be), resilience, and Seasonal Affective Disorder. It was amazing how the interest in what I was doing amongst the commercial vehicle community grew, everyone was so interested”.
Raising awareness of mental health at work
Even when the COVID pandemic hit us, Caroline was determined not to lose focus and she continued to raise awareness of mental health internally within Mercedes-Benz Vans. It was at this point Caroline established a Weekly Wellness essay, which highlighted key research and expert tips and guidance on a host of topics such as self-care, body image, loneliness, eco-anxiety, ageism, period poverty, grief, caffeine and alcohol, imposter syndrome, movement and exercise, the importance of sleep, and mindfulness.
Following a change in role and a move to eStar, Caroline began highlighting the poor offering that service stations provided to truck drivers, despite being a necessity for them. This led to national TV coverage, sparking a phone debate on GB News, and prompting a social media discussion with the Managing Director of Moto Services.
Not content with supporting family and work colleagues, Caroline still wanted to do more and started volunteering at Shout 85258, a text-based crisis service. Proudly, Caroline tells me “this gave me a real purpose and enabled me to further boost my skillset in this area. To date, I have supported over 250 people in crisis”.
In March 2022, Caroline was recognised for the work she does and was truly humbled to receive the Barbara Cox Woman of the Year award. Later that year in the May Caroline also received the Automotive Management award for eStar’s Marketing Strategy of the Year.
Caroline proudly explains “the prize money received from the Barbara Cox award has enabled me to invest in my development, and I am due to start my level 3 Counselling qualification at night school in September. I plan to complete my level 4 and 5 equivalent part time via The Open University, which will enable me to be a fully certified counsellor in a few years”.
I am humbled, inspired and truly grateful that we have heroes like Caroline working in our industry. Just to know that there are people there to help in our darkest hours is a comforting thought. Thank you, Caroline, and all the other fantastic heroes providing mental health first aid.
If you are affected by any of the issues in this article or need someone to talk to urgently then please visit The Campaign Against Living Miserably or their helpline on 0800 585858, or Samaritans and their helpline on 116 123
Employers can also sign up to our CALM Driver scheme where they can register for free info packs for their drivers.
To listen to or read about our other inspiring women working in the industry, please head over to https://www.drivingforbetterbusiness.com/women-in-transport.