In 2021, we were presented with technological advancements, rocket races to the moon, new scientific breakthroughs and much more. However, alongside all of these achievements, one area still faces setbacks: mental health.
The subject of mental health is still viewed by many as a stigma, a taboo subject that cannot be brought up and discussed, especially in work environments. This often leads people to suppress their emotional state or not be informed of what they might be going through.
However, the mental health and well-being of seafarers has been an area that organizations and businesses have recently focused on, not least due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has left many seafarers stranded, uncertain about the future. when they can return home. .
This heightened awareness has enabled Isca Wellbeing to develop a two-day Marine Mental Health and Wellbeing Course, based on the Maritime Charities Mental Health and Wellbeing Awareness Training Standard. Group. The course, specially designed for seafarers, helps them understand mental health disorders, their causes and recognize behavior in themselves and others, as well as advice on how to respond to changes in behavior. .
For many years, the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) has taken a proactive stance on the welfare of seafarers, which has led the authority to launch its own investigation into the welfare of Covid seafarers -19. The authority was eager to recognize a training course that would benefit not only reported BMA, but those in the global shipping industry as well.
The two-day course – also recognized by the Merchant Navy Training Board and the UK Chamber of Shipping – focuses on the different types of poor mental health and their causes; how to recognize behavioral changes in yourself and in others; and understand the psychological, physical and behavioral signs of poor mental health.
Seafarers also learn to react to a crisis, such as a panic attack or suicide; how to avoid judging and stigmatizing mental health; advice on sleep and diet; as well as a lesson on the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’. These five key concepts focus on connecting with others, staying active, paying attention, continuing to learn, and giving to others.
“The course aims to raise awareness of mental health, particularly in the maritime environment.”
Speaking about what the course aims to achieve, Burden says, âThe course aims to raise awareness about mental health, particularly in the maritime environment. We do not train seafarers to treat mental illnesses or to treat people with mental disorders.
âIt’s really about how to recognize distress and how to avoid judging and stigmatizing those with poor mental health. We teach some simple techniques in case someone you work with is having a mental health crisis, and information on where to report those who need help. “
Course participants – which include both seafarers and shore personnel – reported the positive benefits of the course and its guidance, with feedback on the course showing that 100% of delegates feel they have now the knowledge to recognize the signs of poor mental health not only in themselves but others as well.
The comments also show that after completing the course, delegates feel they are able to respond to another sailor if they are faced with a mental health issue or crisis.
Prior to course development, Isca Wellbeing ran a crew agency for security guards provided to work on cruise ships. When Covid-19 struck, the company’s attention was drawn to its security guards who were stranded aboard ships and concerned for their safety, family and job security.
âThe cruise industry grabbed the headlines when the pandemic started, it was a little scary, and it was seen as that petri dish, maybe unfairly,â says Burden.
âYou have a lot of crew on a ship carrying the stresses of everyday life, you add the extra stress that work brings, and then you throw Covid-19 and all that hassle on top, when you could being thousands miles away from home and your loved onesâ¦ how will this stress manifest itself? For our safety team, we thought we should probably consider doing something for their well-being on board. “
This discussion prompted the company to begin further research on seafarer mental health through various studies conducted by universities, industry professionals and organizations. One study the company looked at for research was âRe: fresh Study on the Wellbeing of 17,000 Seafarers during Covid-19,â which provides information on seafarers’ mental health, stress levels and levels of depression.
The study shows that the stress levels reported by sailors during the pandemic are largely the same as before the pandemic. However, the equivalent of 1.5 sailors per vessel is classified as “moderately high or severely depressed”. The study also found that on average one sailor per ship suffers from anxiety, with data showing that young sailors often have the highest levels of depression and anxiety.
Although these data show that poor or declining mental health is a problem among seafarers, the way it is presented can have a negative impact on demonstrating its importance.
Burden explains, âThe way you use the data and the way you deliver your results is changing the way shipping companies listen to them. If you say: â80% of seafarers reported having a high level of welfare. That’s the headline, so 80% have high levels of wellbeing, that’s great, whereas if you say ‘20% depressed’ they get that information in a different way.. “
The future: reducing stigma
Although conversations surrounding mental health are now less stigmatized compared to previous generations, many people still feel unable to discuss the issue with co-workers or managers.
In order to further assist seafarers in their own mental health journey, it was suggested that a handful of people within maritime organizations could be trained on the topic of mental health, in order to provide guidance and guidance. advice to people in need and increase their self-confidence. surrounding the discussion of mental health in the workplace.
âI would like mental health to reach a stage where it is less stigmatized, and considered alongside physical health on board, or safety.
Speaking about the future and how to reduce stigma, Burden says: âI would like mental health to reach a stage where it is less stigmatized and seen the same as physical health on board. or security. Although we have a long way to go, I personally think the UK is quite advanced in this area so it would be good to see this internationally. Within maritime transport, there is a lot of talk about resilience.
âResilience really refers to the responsibility of sailors to toughen up. You want to build resilience, yes, but you need to understand better that if people are mentally good, they will be more resilient – when faced with stressful situations, their ability to deal with those situations will be greater.
In addition to hoping to reduce the overall stigma surrounding mental health, Isca Wellbeing has worked closely with several cadets suffering from poor mental health.
The ratio of poor mental health was found to be higher among them, as well as increased awareness of mental health compared to senior staff. Burden says the company would like to “continue to focus on the cadets” to make sure they get the help and advice they need.
âMental health does not mean being mentally ill or mentally ill. It’s the spectrum of your health – mental health is good mental health and it’s bad mental health just like physical health.
âMental health doesn’t mean being mentally ill or mentally ill,â Burden emphasizes. âIt’s the spectrum of your health – mental health is good mental health and it’s bad mental health just like physical health. ”