Right now there is an increase in the mental health of seafarers. Much of this comes from the general recognition that ‘good’ mental health is just as important as good physical health.
According to the World Health Organisation, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. In the maritime industry many shipping companies are now recognising this and are focusing more to the mental wellbeing of their crews.
According to ISWAN, a nice initiative is the production of the ‘Guidelines to Shipping Companies on Mental Health Awareness’ by the UK Chamber of Shipping, RMT, and Nautilus International.
These guidelines are a good place to start for any shipping, or ship management, company wishing to formulate a policy and adopt good practice on promoting good mental health for their seafarers
However, the guidelines state that company’s policy on mental health should include support for staff who are identified as having mental health issues. The association notes that problem here is developing a culture on board and within the company where a seafarer feels confident about disclosing issues with their mental health without fear of being repatriated and losing their job.
Nevertheless, they do not mention what happens in case a seafarer does not reveal that they are having problems with their mental wellbeing. They could become a risk to the safety of the vessel and crew if they have a major mental health problem or crisis on board.
The industry has to look at the support it can give to seafarers that present with mental health conditions including allowing seafarers to sign up for new contracts when their mental wellbeing improves - after all most people do ‘get better’ and could work again at sea