According to ISWAN, calls and messages from seafarers relating to mental health increased by 37% in the last quarter, across all helplines operated by ISWAN.
he latest quarterly helpline data (Q2 2023 – April to June) released by the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) highlights the diverse range of mental health challenges facing seafarers. Seafarers contacted ISWAN’s helplines from across the maritime sector, from shipping to the cruise and superyacht industries.
Bullying and harassment
16% of seafarers who raised mental health challenges in Q2 2023 were experiencing abuse, bullying, harassment, discrimination or violence (ABHDV). Cases included discrimination on the basis of sexuality or religion as well as bullying by senior officers.
In the previous quarter (Q1 2023), ISWAN reported a significant increase in ABHDV-related cases across its helplines, with a particularly sharp increase on ISWAN’s helpline for the yachting industry, Yacht Crew Help, identifying this as a key problem area to address.
Another issue consistently linked with mental health difficulties among seafarers contacting ISWAN’s helplines is repatriation (14% of mental health-related cases in Q2 2023). Isolation is another major issue.
Stress and anxiety
However, seafarers also reported a range of other issues linked to mental health difficulties in the last quarter, including work-related stress, anxiety about physical health issues, and substance abuse.
The effects of such challenges to mental health can be exacerbated at sea, where seafarers are away from their usual support networks of family and friends, and living with their co-workers in often confined quarters, ISWAN highlights.
When a seafarer is struggling, they need to know that support is always available and easy to access, and our 24-hour helplines provide a safe, non-judgemental space to talk to someone about any problems or worries.
… said ISWAN’s Helpline Manager, Chester Quintal
In Q2 2023, 18% of seafarers who contacted ISWAN’s helplines about their mental health were experiencing family or relationship issues. These included difficulties in relationships with partners and anxiety about relatives who are unwell.
The trends we identify in the issues raised by seafarers inform our work at ISWAN and help us respond to areas of need, and we are sharing these insights with the wider industry so that others can do the same.
… concluded ISWAN’s Helpline Manager, Chester Quinta