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Rise in seafarer mental health issues reported

Photo: MHSS Charles Watkins MHSS.jpg
Charles Watkins, MHSS
Data from Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS) showed a growth in mental health problems among seafarers in a three-month period to the end of February.

A report by MHSS showed heightened anxiety from seafarers onboard along with burnout and depression being reported. The mental health service provider said it saw increase an Master’s requests for counselling support, and this was highest during December, which includes Christmas and year-end holidays, and times normally spent with families.

Young cadets less experienced to cope with the stresses of life at sea are seen a higher risk group for many vessels. The Covid-19 pandemic has added to the anxiety of seafarers and the much-reported crisis around crew change.

“We expect to see an increase in anxiety regarding Covid-related travel complications and limited crew changes,” said Charles Watkins, Managing Director and Clinical Psychologist at MHSS.

MHSS recommends pairing younger cadets experienced seafarers and a “buddy” framework, mental health normalisation courses at maritime academies, encouraging seafarers to reach out, and enhanced training for superintendents to increase the support provided to seafarers.

Watkins said: “Mental health directly impacts the safe operations of a vessel and organizations must have professional and confidential structures in place to treat mental health issues generated by work and external influences.

“Without a consistent approach to mental health issues, these are dealt with locally by the crew themselves – without training and with potentially dangerous consequences. Access to on-demand professional psychological support welcomed by crew and onshore staff.”