World Mental Health Day 2022

Making seafarer mental health and wellbeing a global priority

World Mental Health Day is held on October 10 each year. The goal is to help raise awareness around the causes of poor mental health and the ways we can combat it.

At Sailors’ Society, we know the best way to protect seafarers’ mental health is to surround them with care, help to prevent poor mental health through education, and offer professional help and support for those suffering. That’s why we combine both proactive and reactive mental health support for seafarers.

The past two years with the global pandemic and the war in Ukraine have been some of the toughest our generation has faced, but it has also shone a light on seafarers' mental health and the ways we can work together to improve their wellness and wellbeing.

Here, together with our industry experts, we explore the impact of the last couple of years and how we can continue to best support and raise awareness to ensure equal access to mental health and wellbeing care.

Industry Insight

"Seaspan is a strong supporter of Sailors' Society's Wellness at Sea programme. The programme builds on extensive maritime welfare experience with psychological expertise to empower all seafarers to look after their own and others’ wellbeing.

"Through the programme we have implemented several mental health initiatives including training and peer-to-peer support to complement our regular vessel 'townhall' sessions.

"Mental health for seafarers has too long been a neglected issue. It is great to see the impact Wellness at Sea has had in our company."

Torsten Holst Pedersen
Chief Operating Officer, Seaspan Corporation

"The last two years saw many seafarers face extended periods away from home due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The conflict in Ukraine further caused more worries and distress for seafarers, some of whom could not return home at the end of their contracts.

"The strain on seafarers’ mental wellbeing is unimaginable. The maritime charities work tirelessly, supporting and caring not just for the needs of seafarers, but also their families worldwide. Identifying and supporting seafarers is a crucial part on the journey back to positive mental health."

Sophia Bullard
Director, Crew Health Programme, Thomas Miller P&I Ltd

"The last two years have focused shipping’s mind like never before on the plight of those at sea.

"Whether this can be sustained post-covid is a tall ask, and it will be up to organisations such as charities and media houses to remind industry participants of their earlier lofty sentiments."

Sam Chambers
Editor of shipping news site Splash

"The pandemic taught us that anyone is vulnerable to mental health issues regardless of rank, nationality, age, or culture. It can happen to you and it can happen to me.

"Our mental state is fluid. You are not “mentally healthy” or “mentally ill”. Mental health is a broad continuum with many variants and where we find ourselves on this continuum is constantly changing. As a result, ensuring that we stay mentally healthy is an ever-ongoing process.

"But the pandemic gave us one particular positive for seafarers - it proved that online remote mental health assistance is a legitimate way to get help."

Johan Smith
Sailors' Society Head of Wellness

Sailors’ Society CEO and ICMA Chair, Sara Baade, reflects on the role Sailors’ Society has in supporting maritime mental health and wellbeing across the world.

Mental health issues can happen to anyone. One in four people globally will suffer from some form of mental health issue in their lifetime and it's no different for seafarers.

For a seafarer, mental health issues can arise during their long months at sea, when they are separated from family and friends, in a highly stressful work environment where there may be language barriers and when it feels like they have no one to turn to.

Way back in 2014, we created the first, custom-built global wellness programme to serve the needs of seafarers – Sailors’ Society’s Wellness at Sea programme.

Our Wellness at Sea programme is an ecosystem offering the opportunity for continuous care from the moment they enter a maritime school through to retirement. We call it the Circle of Care. At its heart, it’s aimed at educating and so preventing crises in the first place. We want seafarers to look out for their own and others' wellbeing – and know where to go when they need help.

We start right at the beginning of a seafarer's journey. Our new wellness cadet conferences help prepare cadets for a long and fulfilling career at sea. A poll taken during our first conference this year revealed that more than 96 per cent of cadets thought wellbeing training should be mandatory. We agree.

It's possible that cadets can also access our e-learning programme, some wellness at sea training at their maritime college and Sailors' Society’s pre-departure training. Then, when seafarers are on their vessel, we are with them every step of the way – connected through our Peer-to-Peer support groups or Ship Connect programme or chaplaincy.

The Peer-to-Peer support groups have proved a crucial part of the Wellness at Sea eco-system. Today there are 67 of these private WhatsApp groups used by more than 1,100 seafarers to support each other with the help of a moderator.

And the number of seafarers reached through our Ship Connect service increased by a third in 2021. Like Peer-to-Peer, our chaplains build relationships with crew through confidential group and one-to-one chats, sharing advice on how to deal with common mental health concerns.

On the ground, our team of chaplains cover more than 80 ports around the world and meet with seafarers every day, helping them with Wi-Fi units to enable them to call home, lifts into town or to the doctor, welfare support and a listening ear.

And we are there when things go wrong.

Our Crisis Response Network is a free global service providing 24/7 support to seafarers, their families and shipping companies following a traumatic incident such as piracy attack, accidents, suicide and natural disasters. Today we have 35 trained responders who can provide help in a variety of languages. The Crisis Response Network supported almost a thousand seafarers in 2021. That's nearly 20 every week.

And what we are doing is having an impact.

A recent PhD research report revealed that 10 per cent fewer seafarers who had taken part in Wellness at Sea training reported feeling anxious or worried at work compared to those who had not attended any wellness training, while 14 per cent fewer of the wellness-trained crew reported feeling sad at work.

When people talk about mental health they often focus on the negatives, how bad the situation is out there for seafarers. But change has come and we are really making progress.

On World Mental Health Day the message to the maritime world and its seafarers is simple:

You are not alone. There is help available. Sailors’ Society is there for you whenever and wherever you need us.

Sailors’ Society’s 24/7 confidential helpline for seafarers and their families can be reached on +1-938-222-8181 or via instant chat at:

Sara Baade
Sailors’ Society CEO and ICMA Chair

Wellness at Sea 306 295 01
Find out about our Wellness at Sea programme and how we’re here for seafarers when life gets tough.

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