Not on my watch

Let’s stop suicide and depression at sea.

Seafarers are facing the most dangerous mental health crisis in history.

Before coronavirus, 25 per cent of seafarers were already struggling with depression. Long contracts at sea, thousands of miles away from families and friends, left many feeling isolated and stressed.

Now, the pandemic has plunged around half a million seafarers into uncertainty and fear.

Many thousands are stranded at sea due to global travel restrictions. They’ve already been away for months; they’re exhausted, worried about their loved ones, and they don’t know when they’ll be able to get home. Many more can’t get to sea, and don’t know when they’ll next be able to work to feed their families.

A UN official statement painted this worrying picture of seafarer mental health:

"Those on board have had their contracts extended, sometimes beyond 17 months, and are facing fatigue and physical and mental health issues, leading to fears of self-harm and suicide."

In fact, we've received multiple reports of seafarers dying by suicide, like the man who found the pressure too much and lost his life just days before he was due to fly home.

Since coronavirus hit, we’ve launched a helpline for seafarers who need someone to talk to. We’re increasing the number of welfare grants we give out to help seafarers and their families, and so far we’ve rolled out our free mental health awareness campaign to more than 1,000 ships.

We need your help now, more than ever, to support these men and women. Please, join with us in saying Not On My Watch to suicide and depression at sea.

There are the three ways you can make a difference:

1. Give to Sailors’ Society’s work supporting seafarers who are struggling with depression or have lost colleagues due to suicide. Funds will go where they are needed most when received – either to our coronavirus response work, our port chaplaincy, our wellness programme or to our crisis support for seafarers in need of emergency mental health care.

2. Empower more seafarers to take control of their own mental health by adopting our Wellness at Sea (WAS) awareness campaign or training programme in your company, and speaking out about mental health issues to breaking the taboos around depression at sea.

3. Sign our petition calling on the International Labour Organization (ILO) to make it mandatory in the Maritime Labour Convention for seafarers to receive wellness training.

Together, we can show them they are not alone.

support seafarers - Give today +

"Back in 2009 I was forced to quit my job on a cruise ship after bullying and overwork left me depressed, anxious and suicidal. I was not the first person to leave the ship due to mental health problems. A Chief Engineer I knew had quit with mental illness while I was home on leave. It's no exaggeration to say there is a mental illness epidemic at sea and something has to be done about it."

David, UK

“My plea would be to ensure that seafarers know that support is available to them and that senior officers are provided with appropriate training.”

Capt Trevor Bailey, vice-president, Nautical Institute, and Not On My Watch supporter

"I have seen first hand shipmates break down or just snap and lose it. It was very concerning and none of us on board were trained to deal with it because from the moment you start sailing you are always told to ‘just deal with it’."

Matthew, Not On My Watch supporter, Malaysia

"I have seen my colleagues suffer. And I personally have gone in and out of depression. We need to be better trained to deal with this."

Lijo, Not On My Watch supporter, India

Say Not On My Watch to suicide and depression at sea

Wellness at Sea

Sailors’ Society’s innovative Wellness at Sea coaching programme empowers seafarers to look after their own well-being, helping them protect themselves and their crewmates against depression.

Wellness at Sea explores five different aspects of a seafarer’s life: social, emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual.

By helping seafarers take control of each of these areas, the programme enables them to mange their own mental health and combat some of the factors that lead to depression.

It also teaches them how to identify signs of depression, how to help others struggling with mental health issues and where to get help if they need it for themselves.

Find out more at www.wellnessatsea.org

Wellness at Sea is available around the world and can be delivered in Hindi, Russian, Mandarin, Tagalog and English in class. Since its launch in 2015, more than 8,000 seafarers have completed the training.

Long contracts and busy schedules mean classroom-based training isn’t always possible, so Wellness at Sea is also available as an e-learning course.

There are a variety of ways you can support Wellness at Sea and say Not On My Watch to suicide and depression at sea, including:

  • running Wellness at Sea training for your staff
  • sponsoring seafarers or cadets to take the e-learning course; £100 can pay for 20 seafarers to access the training

For sponsorship or partnership opportunities, please contact Sailors’ Society’s corporate partnerships team at [email protected]

Sources: Sailors’ Society/ Yale survey, 2017; Iversen RT; The Mental Health of Seafarers, International Maritime Health. 2012.

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