Report Finds a Quarter of Seafarers to Suffer From Depression

 Master Mainer Dan Thompson (left) with Sailors’ Society’s CEO Stuart Rivers.

More than a quarter of seafarers show signs of depression, according to a study of seafarers’ mental health presented at the recent Sailors’ Society’s Wellness at Sea conference in London.

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.

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 percent) 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 percent said they had spoken to a colleague, despite spending months on a ship with them.

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.”

Thompson said he has worked on cargo and cruise ships, but said life on cargo ships was especially tough. He referred to a cargo ship he had worked on for six months with no Wi-Fi, no TV and no social contact other than work, and for periods of time no air-conditioning despite sailing between Australia and Singapore.

“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,” he said.

Sailors’ Society, which celebrated its 200th anniversary this March, works with seafarers in 91 ports around the world, offering counselling and support.

The Society also offers a Welness at Sea coaching program and app teaching seafarers about wellness and providing tools to help them stay physically and mentally fit at sea.


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