Sunday 10 October was World Mental Health Day, which was themed ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’. This day is a global event which aims to raise more awareness about mental health conditions.
istorically, World Mental Health Day aims to highlight the lack of access to mental health services people some may experience because of their background.
In fact, between 75% and 95% of people with mental health disorders in low and middle-income countries are unable to access mental health services at all, according to the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). However, many living in wealthier countries also struggle to get access to the services they need.
Namely, according to WFMH, not enough money is being put into providing mental health support compared to the overall money spent on healthcare around the world. This means lots of people are not able to get the help they need.
What is a mental health issue?
When people talk about mental health, they’re talking about how people think and feel, and how they are coping with thing that happen in their life.
The truth is that mental health is something that affects everyone, just like physical health. It is completely normal to feel sad, angry or worried from time to time, but when those feelings won’t go away and they start to really affect day-to-day life, that is when there can be a problem and it is time to seek help.
However, signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors. Examples of signs and symptoms include:
- Feeling sad or down
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
- Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
- Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
- Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
- Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
- Problems with alcohol or drug use
- Major changes in eating habits
- Sex drive changes
- Excessive anger, hostility or violence
- Suicidal thinking
Mental health and seafarers
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a major crisis for seafarers, which is already showing an impact on the mental health of the seafarers. According to Gard Club:
A seafarer’s mental fatigue or stress is a direct result of the environment that he or she operates in. Traumatic events, from natural disasters to war, can damage mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic is no different
As a matter of fact, it has created such an uncertainty, that seafarers fear for their own safety and also the safety of family and friends. In addition, those working onboard ships must endure these fears separated from their loved ones.
What is more, a clinical psychologist has challenged the maritime industry to stop making empty promises about helping to improve seafarers’ welfare and mental health.
Namely, Charles Watkins, the founder and managing director of Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS), believes a “significant number” of businesses fail to act after publicly committing to aiding seafarers’ mental wellbeing.
We see news stories, press statements and social media posts from businesses in this industry talking about the need to help crew members that may be suffering psychologically after a year or more at sea. But those same companies then do little to provide mental health support to seafarers
In addition, the number of seafarers calling MHSS’ 24/7 support line increased by 60% from April to June 2021 compared to the previous quarter. An MHSS report attributed most cases to the pandemic’s impact on mental health, with anxiety, bullying or crew conflict causing stress among mariners.
The impact of Covid-19 on mental health was increasing with more cases expected as extended contracts, the crew change crisis and worries over family members back home getting Coronavirus contributed to seafarers’ stress levels
What can seafarers do to cope with stress?
There are many helpful tool that can help any person – not just seafarers – ackowledge they are having a problem and assist them in making it better. If you are experiencing brief periods of helplessness, it is good new that this feeling of helplessness can be “unlearned”. In fact, there are tried and tested techniques that enhance mental resilience:
#1 Write down your thoughts
Start by writing down all your thoughts on the left side of a blank paper, while keeping the right side of the paper blank as you will need to counter all those negative thoughts with positive ones.
#2 Practice PERMA
Prof. Martin Seligman’s work of positive psychology has proven ‘why happy people are happy’. According to Dr. Seligman, positive thoughts that influence positive psychology, and not the absence of negative thoughts.
This can be best described through the acronym PERMA. This is a five-sided model of well-being, that includes:
- Positive Emotion
#3 Get outside your own mind
It is ery common when we are anxious or depressed, for our symptoms to occupy our minds. In fact, we even search for severity or for new mental difficulties, making things worse and worse. What is more, depression, anxieties and other emotional concerns tend to amplify when they remain our only focus.
For this reason, we have to get out, serve others, and find that our own worries can diminish. Moreover, we also feel better when we serve others, as we get a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and contribution.
#4 Remove the clutter
During these two years of the pandemic, we have been too busy protecting precious little time to relax, but virtually doing nothing. This year’s Mental Health Day can presents a wonderful opportunity to consider what we can take away from our daily lives that might improve our peace of mind and support our emotional wellness.
This is a day to remove the misguided pride in the word “busy,” and focus not on all we can do, but on what really needs to be done
Additionally, the pandemic has presented a unique opportunity to remove clutter from our lives. In fact, during the pandemic, many have discovered that much of their time has been spent on unnecessary activity, from busy work to social media scrolling.
Many people find that these activities prevent them from getting a full night’s sleep or connecting with family, which two of the main pillars of emotional wellness.
Removing some of this activity can help us protect time for some of these other endeavors that foster well-being and growth
#5 Assess your relationships
Finally, assess how each of your relationships is working for you. Are you giving more than you are receiving from a sibling or friend? Do you feel hopeful and refueled after a coffee date with an acquaintance?
These are very important questions to ask, as many of us spend far too much time and energy on relationships that are either toxic or one-sided, and that can include social media connections.
On the other hand, you may recognize that you do not reach out and connect enough to others. Thus, slowing down to connect more deeply and share your everyday life with your close family or friends is among the most important ways you can strengthen your mental wellness.