More than a quarter of seafarers show signs of
depression – and many won’t ask for help, according to a study of seafarers’
mental health presented at Sailors’ Society’s Wellness at Sea conference on 16
The study of more than 1,000 seafarers was carried out
by international maritime charity Sailors’ Society and Yale University, with
more than one in six of the respondents coming from the UK.
Some 26 per cent of seafarers said they had felt
“down, depressed or hopeless” on several days over the previous two weeks.
The seafarers said the quality and amount of food on
board can have a big impact on their mental health, alongside isolation from
their families and length of their contracts.
Nearly half (45 per cent) of the seafarers who
reported symptoms of depression said they had not asked anybody for help.
Around one-third said they had turned to family and/or friends, but only 21 per
cent said they had spoken to a colleague, despite spending months on a ship
Sailors’ Society’s Wellness at Sea conference brought
maritime leaders together to discuss the importance of seafarer wellness, its
impact on the industry and how to combat problems like depression.
Dan Thompson, 29, from London, who had to take time
out from his job as a navigation officer when he became depressed, spoke at the
conference to raise awareness of the problem. He said:
“The reason I became ill was primarily my job – the
workload, the sleep deprivation and the pressures of the job.
“Having lived at sea I would anticipate the numbers of
people suffering from depression to be even higher than those who admitted it
in the survey.
“Our industry is generally more ‘macho’ than many
others. The attitude is to just toughen up and get on with it. There is a fear
of talking about it openly, of losing your job.”
Sailors’ Society, which celebrated its 200th
anniversary this month (March 18), announced the survey results to more than
100 industry figures attending its Wellness at Sea Conference.
Sailors’ Society Deputy CEO Sandra Welch said:
“Seafarers spend months on end at sea, facing some of the toughest conditions
of any workforce – isolation, cramped living quarters, noise, heat, storms –
sometimes they’re not even able to stomach the food on board.
“This report is a wake-up call to the industry about
the huge impact this is having on seafarers’ mental health.
“We’re working with shipping companies to help them
offer the best care to their employees, who are the life blood of the industry
and our global economy.”
Held at platinum sponsor Inmarsat’s 99 City Road
conference facilities, the Wellness at Sea conference was chaired by Sailors’
Society CEO Stuart Rivers, with Euronav’s CEO Paddy Rodgers as keynote speaker.
The event featured presentations from all areas of the
shipping industry including from Kuba Szymanski (InterManager), Sophia Bullard
(UK P&I Club), Bridget Hogan (Nautical Institute), as well as a lively
panel debate chaired by TradeWinds Editor, Julian Bray, with Paddy Rodgers,
Drew Brandy (Inmarsat), Ella Hagell (Tindell Riley [Britannia] Ltd) and Mark
Robertshaw (Brightwell Payments).
In addition to headline sponsor Inmarsat, the conference
was supported by silver sponsor UK P&I Club, and bronze sponsors Brightwell
Payments, Wescom Signal & Rescue UK Ltd and Future Care Inc.
Maritime charity Sailors’ Society, which works with
seafarers in 91 ports around the world, offers counselling and support to those
struggling with depression.