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Suicide the top cause of seafarer deaths

Suicide the top cause of seafarer deaths
The UK P&I Club is putting the spotlight on seafarer mental health with suicide the cause of 15% of deaths at sea.

As a career seafarers are second most at risk from suicide Anuj Velankar, senior loss prevention advisor, UK P&I Club, told a seminar in Singapore on Tuesday. The career with the highest risk was being a veterinary physician, which was explained due to a tendency towards self-medication and a ready access to drugs.

In the case of seafarers young age, isolation and the impact of social media were all cited as factors. Velankar noted that there were constantly reports of younger crew onboard, who were not experienced – “these are the people most at risk of mental health issues”.

The result of mental health issues among seafarers is that suicide is the highest cause of fatalities at sea, accounting for 15% of deaths according to the UK P&I Club. “This what kills the most number of seafarers,” Velankar stated

Young seafarers such as cadets were seen as particularly at risk. “When you look at cadets the figures are even more horrifying,” he said. Some 40% of 11 deaths of cadets over the last 10 years came as the result of suicide.

He highlighted the case of an 18 year South Korean cadet who disappeared off the coast of India one month into a 10 month contract, in an apparent suicide. Other crew members noted he had seemed depressed and a diary found in his possessions gave a picture of very depressed mental state.

In terms of the causes of depression among seafarers Velankar said they were looking at social media, work stress, and hours of work and rest.

In the terms of social media, whereas in the past seafarers had very little contact with home, now were aware of all the problems happening at home.

“Maybe ignorance was bliss,” commented Lee Wai Pong, regional advisor, UK P&I Club, who previously served as a captain.

With smaller crews social media also combines with an issue of isolation for seafarers.

“This is an issue we need to focus on,” said Velankar.