- Crew suicides at sea rose during these tough working conditions which required the highest levels of mental stability and physical fitness.
- It is vital crew receive mental support from their peers and managers by way of engagement while ensuring the confidentiality of those discussions.
- Often the mental health of seafarers is a taboo subject, and it has only recently been accepted as a treatable psychological condition.
Crew wellbeing and performance is linked to mental health support, a balanced and nutritious diet and regular exercise, writes Blu Maritime Consultancy Pte Ltd managing director Captain Harminder Singh.
While seafarers have been braving rough seas for centuries to keep ships operating safely and cargo moving, it became more noticeable to the public during the pandemic, with the crew crises and supply chain challenges.
Crew suicides at sea rose during these tough working conditions which required the highest levels of mental stability and physical fitness.
Often the mental health of seafarers is a taboo subject, and it has only recently been accepted as a treatable psychological condition with good support from office supporting staff and medical experts.
Perils at sea
Many mariners come from countries with emerging economies, choosing to go to sea with the desire to see the world and earn a living for their families back home.
The perils at sea are only felt once the voyage has begun, land is not seen again for days or weeks, and mariners are separated from their families for months.
Port calls can bring interference from the local authorities, which require vessels to be seaworthy, fit to load the cargo and safe for the crew.
Incidents and accidents often get linked with the “human element” as crew operate and manage the ships at all given times.
Crew need to comply with international statutory requirements, maintain a high level of competence and continue to advance through value-added training to seek a berth on vessels.
Until the MLC 2006 was ratified and the convention implemented in the early part of this century, the galley and food safety were not highly regulated.
The PSC inspection regime reminds captains and ship managers of the importance of ensuring the crew eats healthy food and receives the necessary treatment as guided by the regulations on remuneration, accommodation, good food and hygiene standards.
Every accident, incident or near miss has a link to the human element, but training may not eliminate their recurrence as decisions are made in a split second under dynamic environments with risks towards injury, vessel damage or even fatalities.
Post-incident stress recovery
Post-incident stress and trauma have a significant impact on the sailor’s daily life. The physical parameters of the human body are linked to the mind, requiring critical decisions to be made while the mariner may not be in the best mental state; this could result in a catastrophe.
Having a balanced diet, eating a variety of nutritious food to maintain a healthy body, with regular exercise, meditation or yoga ways to help ensure seafarers’ functions at their maximum abilities, makes decisions which are sound and has the desired positive outcomes.
A healthy body with a healthy mind can remain motivated to achieve a much more efficient productive outcome than a person who is Higher weight and stressed.
Mental support for the crew
Media and communications channels provide access to global information and at times can be stressful to manage while operating heavy machinery and making critical decisions on board ship.
It is vital crew receive mental support from their peers and managers by way of engagement while ensuring the confidentiality of those discussions, creating a motivated and positive environment.
A clear platform must be available to first understand the crew’s mental health. Encouraging personal communications, exercising in cabins or in gyms on board ships and nutritious balanced meals are just a few of the simple ways to keep a healthy body and alert mind.
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