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Mental Health of Seafarers

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According to a report by WHO, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point of their lives.  There are around 450 million people currently suffering from such conditions, and this makes mental disorders among the key causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.


A career at sea can be very demanding and life at sea is very harsh – both mentally and physically.  Seafarers are more likely to suffer from mental issues compared to those working on land.  Why is this so?  There are two main contributing factors:



Seafaring is a very demanding occupation and can place a lot of stress on the seafarer due to the dangerous working environment and long working hours.  Seafarers face high levels of stress and fatigue offshore and these have long been linked to mental issues and is considered one of the paramount reasons for mental illness.



Lack of Communication & Support

Having to spend long periods of time away from home, seafarers do not get to see their family and loved ones as often as they would like to.  There’s usually limited access to the internet on board the ship thus making it very difficult to keep in contact with their loved ones through chatting apps.  Feelings of loneliness can hit the crew hard especially when they are experiencing difficult times on board.



So what can be done to solve the problem and maintain a healthier and happier workforce at sea?


Seafarers must be able to talk to anyone onboard if they encounter any problems, be it work-related problems or family problems.  Companies should provide some form of training for seafarers like spotting the signs of mental distress or even provide counseling for their crew.


Seafarers should preferably be provided with access to clinical professionals who can diagnose and access their mental health status and to better advise the crew should there be any mental health issues.



Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO:

“Mental illness is not a personal failure. In fact, if there is failure, it is to be found in the way we have responded to people with mental and brain disorders.”