Ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day tomorrow, we want to make sure seafarers know there is somewhere to turn to for support if they are struggling.
The number of calls and messages related to suicide which we received through ISWAN’s international helplines, including SeafarerHelp and Yacht Crew Help, more than doubled in 2021 compared to 2020 (39, up from 19). To date in 2022, calls and messages related to suicide remain over 50% higher than the same period in 2020.
Seafarers have been under immense pressure over the last three years due to global events, but those we have spoken to talk about a range of worries, including repatriation delays, problems at home, bullying and harassment on board, fatigue and financial problems.
To seafarers, we say – you are not alone. If you are struggling, you can talk to someone at any time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, on our free, confidential helplines SeafarerHelp (for all seafarers and their families) or Yacht Crew Help (for professional yacht crew).
To the industry, we say – as well as raising awareness of the support available to seafarers, we must make sure that seafarers’ mental health is tackled in a preventative way rather than reactively as it is commonly dealt with now. The recently released Suicide and Seafarers report by the UK Department for Transport and Ipsos highlighted that embedding mental health ‘fitness’ from the top down – through organisational and onboard culture – and from the bottom up – through cadet training and recruitment approaches – was believed to be central to addressing this issue.
Simon Grainge, ISWAN’s Chief Executive, said: ‘The increased number of calls and messages our helplines received last year from seafarers experiencing suicidal thoughts is a sign of a wider problem – crew mental health is suffering, and the industry needs to make it a priority. We are working hard to make this happen with industry training and published guidance, and by working with our network of members and shipping industry partners on projects such as our Social Interaction Matters (SIM) Project.
‘For those who need support right now, our free, multilingual helplines are available 24/7, and our helpline team is trained in emotional support and suicide risk assessment. We have a number of counsellors in-house, but we can also refer seafarers to external counsellors or to our network of contacts including charities like Befrienders Worldwide to ensure they get the support they need.’