Collaboration is key: improving mental health at sea

Posted: 9th January 2020

Collaboration is key: improving mental health at sea

Seafarers work in challenging environments which can see them confronted by psychological, and physical stressors on a daily basis. This exacerbated by disconnection with friends, and families, and although onboard wifi and connectivity is improving, this is not always enough to improve mental wellbeing onboard vessels.

As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, to face the challenges of the coming decades, shipping needs to attract new generations of skilled seafarers, equipped with the specific knowledge – particularly related to new, digital technology and alternative fuels. Increasingly, careers at sea need to compete with careers onshore – and this means that seafarers are, quite rightly, expecting more from life on board ship.

A big part of making life on ship work for seafarers is to think about mental health and wellness at sea. Traditionally, the industry has been good at thinking about physical health and safety, setting best practices to prevent injury and ensure health on board ship. However, the discussion about mental health has lagged behind. Much of this has been driven by stigma – however, in recent months, in particular, the level of conversation about mental health has increased. This can only be a good thing; we need to recognise that life on board ship can be mentally tough, and address how best to support crew. It’s clear that ship managers, the main point of focus for crewing, need to play a leading role here.

To support both current seafarers and engage future seafarers in a both physically and mentally challenging workplace, V.Group, and the industry as a whole, must develop best practices on mental health and learn from real experiences and collaborate with the rest of the industry to make industry progress together to understand the future of welfare and the most effective future strategies to adopt.

V.Group is committed to enhancing engagement with the rest of the industry and it prides itself on its culture and values which are embedded in every aspect of the company from recruitment and identifying appropriate education and training to business decisions and safety practices. We are truly committed fostering a culture to remove stigmatism on speaking up about unsafe practices, risks and onboard issues by challenging the norm, being consistent, collaborating and caring as well as recognising the needs of the current and future workers in the transport chain, ensuring the are equipped with the required expertise for the jobs of the future.

One powerful tool we have introduced to ensure seafarers are equipped to take care of their mental health is e-learning. Our training business, Marlins, has developed the Resilience e-learning package, in collaboration with the UK P&I club.

The programme provides ten modules of short courses, which are designed to provide seafarers with the tools to cope with stresses they may be faced with. The main aim of the ‘Resilience’ programme is to equip seafarers with strategies for dealing with work and life pressures. Each course explores a different natural capacity to deal with life’s challenges – both in and outside of work and provides practical techniques for managing health issues. The ‘Resilience’ programme is accompanied by a group discussion to provide a platform to discuss topics in more detail.

The partnership provision of e-learning also covers a range of topics available online and offline to enable seafarers to study in any location, providing the ability to learn from home or out at sea without the need to attend a training centre, taking time away from their loved ones. The content covers physical health, social isolation, stress management, dignity at work and post-traumatic stress disorder. We not only offer these courses to seafarers but also cadets entering our programme to develop their awareness of the challenges of working at sea and to help train our future senior officers in our company culture.

Additionally, in an industry with tempting travel incentives, and with a variety of nationalities working onboard and onshore, cultural awareness training is offered to allow both seafarers and shore teams to gain an understanding of their colleagues’ cultures, creating a unified V.Group safety culture that also embodies our company values. Uniting seafarers with our crew managers, and superintendents encourages better communication and therefore better health and safety.

V.Group sees continuations of partnerships as essential to see progress, from understanding issues at sea and being able to tackle them as well as providing the right skillsets and support in order for seafarers to thrive in the workplace. V.Group ensures the caring culture is ingrained into all parts of the seafaring process from recruitment through to retirement. From training courses and providing apps to encouraging time with family and friends and providing a 24/7 human support network, V.Group recognises it is essential to providing the best support possible for seafarers for the industry to thrive in a quickly changing industry and recognise the importance of fostering an understanding community both at sea and onshore.

For all seafarers wanting to contribute to industry understanding on health and happiness at sea, please complete the following survey for seafarer charity Mission to Seafarers: https://www.happyatsea.org/survey

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