Mental health awareness week

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This week marks the 4th annual Mental Health Awareness Week. Conceived by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness week raises awareness of mental health issues by developing a greater understanding of their cause and effect. The Club would like to take this opportunity to stress our commitment to improving standards for mental health and wellbeing within the marine industry.

Last year, the Club recorded several claims involving crew members with suspected mental health issues. One of these claims related to a member of crew’s mental illness which had gone undetected until, unprovoked, he attacked fellow crew members with a crowbar. The member of crew was diagnosed with a mental health illness and was disembarked and hospitalised for treatment. Another claim arose after crew members witnessed a suicide from a bridge their vessel was passing under. The crew members that witnessed the suicide, and later discovered the body aboard the ship, suffered from severe trauma and sought psychotherapy as a result. While these incidents are rare, the high rates of suicide in the marine industry – according to one study only the coal mining industry fairs worse1 – underline the challenges the industry faces in improving standards for mental health and wellbeing.

It is perhaps not surprising that seafarers are more likely to suffer from mental health problems given the challenges of their working lives. Depression and anxiety, in particular, inflict many in the industry. In recognition of this, the Club published the article Crew Health: Maintaining mental wellbeing, which was developed by Dr Olivia Swift of Royal Holloway, University of London. The article underlines some of the key symptoms of mental health among seafarers and makes recommendations for mental health interventions on board.

Dr Swift’s contribution was sought as part of the Club’s Seafarers’ Health Information Programme (SHIP) in association with the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN). The initiative aims to raise awareness of crew related illness and to assist our Members in mitigating against related incidents.

As part of this initiative the Club has also published two guidance booklets, Guidelines for mental care on board merchant ships and Advice for mental care. These booklets provide detailed advice on how to identify risks to mental wellbeing on board and outline coping measures that can be put in place to improve mental well being. In addition, there are three posters that can be displayed on board. These can be downloaded by clicking the links below.

The Club wishes to stress its support for Mental Health Awareness week and recommend Members consult the Mental Health Foundation website for further information and advice.

1Roberts, S. E. et al. “Suicides Among Seafarers In UK Merchant Shipping, 1919-2005”. Occupational Medicine 60.1 (2009): 54-61. Web.