This follows research from Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS)[ii] which showed a rise in mental health problems among seafarers in a three-month period to the end of February. The report showed heightened anxiety from seafarers onboard, with burnout and depression being reported. MHSS also saw an increase in requests for counselling support, and this was highest during December, which includes Christmas and year-end holidays, and times normally spent with families.
Alexander Buchmann, managing director, Hanseaticsoft said: “Some seafarers will no doubt recognise these feelings, given their mental health has been extremely challenged over the past year. Many have been forced to stay at sea for several months longer than planned, sometimes for over a year. This can be tough on people’s mental wellbeing. The fears around Covid-19 and the potential for getting ill on board have also no doubt played on people’s minds adding to the mental anguish some may be feeling. Looking after the mental wellbeing of crew now and in the future should be a priority even after the pandemic ends.”
Mr Buchmann recommended companies invest in technology to support the mental wellbeing of their crew. He said, “Making sure that crew have personal internet access which they can use for emails and video calls to stay connected to the outside world is one easy solution for tackling mental health issues.
“Now more than ever crew need to be able to stay in touch with family and friends, especially if it’s been longer than usual since they have been home. Providing robust internet access can also enable seafarers to seek help from mental wellbeing apps, as well as contact organisations for counselling or support. It can also enable them to speak with a healthcare professional or counsellor virtually in private should it be needed.”
Another key element for good mental health is ensuring that seafarers get enough rest and stick to legal limits on how many hours they can work is also essential. Not having enough sleep can boost the body’s level of stress hormones which becomes a vicious circle for those already stressed.
Work stress and impaired sleep are linked to a threefold higher risk of cardiovascular death in employees with hypertension[iii] according to a study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Hanseaticsoft offers software that can help companies prevent tiredness and improve the health and wellbeing of seafarers. The Rest Hours Module is part of their Cloud Crewing software solution and digitalises and centralises the management of rest hours via cloud technology.
It allows crews to enter their own rest hours rather than relying on someone else to collect and enter the data. This means they can access their own data and ensure the correct times have been entered.
Mr Buchmann added, “With mental health likely to be an ongoing challenge for shipping companies as we move out of the pandemic and beyond, making use of available technology to support seafarers can be a real game changer.”