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Seafarer’s Mental Health & Well Being

Good health is not just the absence of sickness; but being fit - physically, mentally, psychologically and spiritually.

They say it in Roman,“MENS SANA EN CORPORE SANO” - Healthy mind in a Healthy body. The terms “mental health” and “mental illness” refer to the social, psychological and emotional well-being of individuals.

Mental illnesses, which include conditions such as depression, anxiety disorder, psychosis and schizophrenia, may be less visible than many physical disabilities but their effects on affected individuals can be very serious.

Research has sought to provide fresh insight into the issue of seafarers’ mental ill health.

As per the findings from the seafarer survey of injury, illness, and mental health risk factors in international seafarers, sponsored by the ITF/Seafarers’ Trust:

ü 27% had scores suggesting DEPRESSION(significantly higher than other working and general populations)

ü 17% were defined as seafarers with ANXIETY

ü 20% of seafarers surveyed had SUICIDAL IDEATION

Key signs of mental health problem 

The key signs pointing towards a mental health problem are usually related to changes in mood, behavior, eating habits, effectiveness at work, etc.Isolation & Loneliness, home sickness, lack of shore leave, fear of criminalizationand fear of losing job are few of the causal factors leading to Depression in Seafarers

It is equally important that the ship’s senior officers & colleagues safely engage their juniors in various activities on board and do not confine them to a limited scope.

Moreover, Mental Health must be routinely discussed in office meetings as well as Shipboard Safety Meetings. Seafarers should talk freely about their mental health issues (if any) to their seniors / colleagues

Signs of psychological wellbeing

Psychological wellbeing is about being well psychologically, which means that:

ü We can function well

ü We feel generally good about ourselves and about life

ü We feel a sense of life satisfaction, a sense of purpose and a sense that our lives are on the right track 

When we feel good we have the energy to do all kinds of things, but when we are feeling stressed or low, we forget to do the things that make us feel happy. 

Studies show that personality traits such as Optimism (positive thinking / attitude)&Pessimism (negative thinking / attitude) can affect many areas of your physical & psychological health & well-being. Optimism is a key part of effective stress management

 Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:

ü Increased life span

ü Lower rates of depression; Lower levels of distress

ü Greater resistance to the common cold

ü Better cardiovascular health

ü Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

To put in a clear context, let me reiterate on the Mind-Body connection. The more you help your body, the more you help your mind.

A graphical study on Exercise frequency by presence of Depression conducted on around 1200 international seafarers clearly shows that almost half (49%) of seafarers without depression exercised 2 or more times per week, while almost half (43%) of seafarers with depression exercised less than once a month.

Physical activity increases the flow of oxygen to your brain 

Physical activity increases the flow of oxygen to your brain. It also increases the amount of endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals, in your brain. People who are in good physical shape also tend to enjoy a higher level of mental agility. Engaging in a vigorous physical workout can help you battle depression, gain a more positive outlook on life & is great way to beat stress, which can harm you mentally and physically.

And finally not to undermine the importance of relaxation and meditation in order as an antidote for Mental as well as physical stress.

Everything in our lives has an impact on our mental state. It is important to remember that throughout the course of our lives we all feel a range of positive and negative emotions.

Talking to friends, family, and the colleagues, one of the ways to manage psychological problems

One of the ways we manage our problems and our emotional response on a day-today basis is to talk to our friends and family or the people we work with.

The key word is ‘POSITIVE’ – Positive Thinking, Positive Emotions, Positive relations and so on. Stay away from the Negatives and you will be mentally fit.

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