ICS published a new document to help shipping companies handle mental health emergencies, and to spot suicidal behaviour.
What are suicidal feelings?
eafarers can be more at risk of suicidal feelings due to major life events such as a bereavement or due to a multitude of stressors causing a decline in a person’s mental wellbeing.
- Do not constitute a mental illness but are a potential consequence and are not always associated with a diagnosable mental health condition, particularly depression. A person might feel trapped and may not see a solution to their problems. Suicide may then start to seem like a potential solution for seafarers who may feel they are a burden to others who would be better off without them.
- Can also mean thinking about methods of suicide or making clear plans to take one’s own life which can vary in intensity and duration;
- Can be experienced due to multiple factors contributing to lead the individual concerned thinking they can no longer cope;
- Can occur at any age but are most common in teens, young adults and the elderly;
- Are more likely to be experienced by women;
- Are more likely to lead to suicide when experienced by men.
Suicidal feelings are also higher for seafarers who have:
How companies can help
Companies should create an on board caring culture to address mental health matters:
- Without fear of reprisal;
- To help reduce the stigma that seafarers fear they will experience if they mention their mental health (including loss of employment).
However, help is available:
- Some companies have their own policies and confidential employee assistance programmes which should be well publicised so that crew are aware and can feel confident to seek help when required;
- International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) has developed a range of resources to help seafarers manage and cope with low mood, stress and fatigue, to maximise psychological wellbeing wellbeing: www.seafarerswelfare.org/seafarer-health-information-programme
Managing physical symptoms triggered by stress and anxiety
The following short-lived symptoms may arise for seafarers with a low mood or anxiety:
It can be difficult to know what causes these symptoms, but they are often experienced due to stress, anxiety or low mood and may worsen when seafarers focus on them. Seafarers concerned about physical symptoms should speak to the person(s) responsible for on board medical care and if necessary seek advice from TMAS.
Myths surrounding suicide
A common misconception is that by talking about suicide, it will increase the chance of someone acting on their suicidal thoughts. This is untrue
Health professionals discourage use of the word “commit” suicide – suicide is not a crime and discourages seafarers from talking about it. Alternative terms to consider are:
- Taking their own life;
- Die by suicide;
- Complete suicide.
The following suggestions can be used as ways to help encourage a seafarer to manage their concerns: