Harassment and strained relationships onboard contributed to deteriorating mental health
Mental Health Support Services’ (MHSS) hotline reported a surge in calls of over 60 per cent in the recent months. While majority was attributed to the pandemic’s impact on seafarers, bullying has emerged to be a contributor to their mental distress.
MHSS named bullying as a contributor to the 60 per cent surge in calls. They added issues raised over the calls included anxiety, bullying or crew conflicts arising from limited experience with different cultures or nationalities. Thankfully, MHSS also offered coping strategy training, which greatly helped seafarers manage their interpersonal relationships onboard. In some cases, it was the hotline that gave some seafarers the courage to even share their woes with a stranger.
Work relationships’ challenges come in various forms – language, culture or even work habits, which can misalign values. The inability to manage differences constructively may result in dire consequences. Former Chief Engineer, Stephan Vecchi said, “Usually, it is one person who starts the bullying and you can find them pretty fast because they are typically a troublemaker. This person should get a warning and then be removed if it is not possible to stop the harassment.”
MHSS also noted calls from young cadets reporting bullying, and that from onshore staff because of burnout or harassment by management. Former captain Daniel Musafia, who was featured in MHSS’ video series stressed today’s seafarers have access to improved support in comparison to his early years since 1984. He stressed having better control of one’s thoughts and helping colleagues onboard makes mental health training and know-how an important part of basic training for seafarers today.
Interpersonal relationship challenges are occupational hazards. Strained relationships among co-workers will further dilute the attractiveness of seafaring as a career. Vecchi believes the maritime industry must adopt a strict two-strike policy to protect seafarers from bullies. He recommended victims to speak to a trusted colleague, officer or master.
Crewing Online News Team
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