Mental health issues among seafarers is an increasing area of concern, AMSA notes, considering that long periods of time separated from family and friends, long work hours, shift work and fatigue, along with the general operational hazards of seafaring, can all play their part in creating a stressful environment.
Being a seafarer can be demanding at the best of times and especially now than ever that COVID-19 has brought added challenges on the surface. Mental health issues can affect how we work and how we approach our safety in general. In this regard, AMSA issued mental health guidance to seafarers, highlighting that operators and the masters play a vital role in helping alleviate the effects of stress that can lead to mental health issues.
In particular, masters and senior crew should:
- ensure crew members have information and awareness through training
- establish prevention and minimisation programs
- be able to identify employees having problems
- initiate the necessary assistance if required – including some masters and senior crew being instructed in mental health first aid.
Being out of character: 7 common signs
Everyone can help an individual in need; pay attention to changes in his or her behavior, and talk to them if you detect any of the following:
- withdrawing, isolating, being quieter than usual
- appearing distressed
- appearing agitated or irritable
- having difficulty in managing the work or workload
- being argumentative, aggressive or getting into conflict
- being confused, unusually forgetful, or having trouble concentrating
10 ways to help others cope with difficulties
- Spend time with the seafarer
- Offer your assistance and a listening ear
- Respect their privacy
- Help with any practical arrangements they may need
- Do not take their emotions personally, as this is probably a part of their reaction
- Do not tell them they are ‘lucky the situation isn’t worse’—they probably don’t feel lucky
- Help them to re-establish a normal schedule as quickly as possible, and include them in the activities of others
- Encourage them to be active and involved
- Encourage them to look at what they can manage, rather than just thinking about what they want to avoid
- Be prepared to help in the short term.