Psychologists provide mental health ship visits in industry first

Seafarers often face unique challenges that can contribute to stress and impact their mental health. Working for long periods away from home, isolation, demanding work schedules, and exposure to unpredictable and sometimes harsh environmental conditions, as well as the threat of piracy attacks and travelling through high-risk areas, can all have a toll on a seafarer’s mental health.

In an industry first, health and wellbeing provider OneCare Solutions (OCS) and its affiliate, Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS) are offering mental health ship visits, a new service where trained psychologists go onboard to spend time with crew members and identify those at risk and assess their needs and concerns.

The first such visit took place on a client’s bulker in Greece in January. The new service has been introduced after OCS recognized an increased demand by companies to offer mental health ship visits for mental health checks and onboarding.

In the last quarter of 2023, particularly in December, there was a notable surge in requests for assistance from MHSS concerning stress, anxiety, and family issues among crew members, suggesting a potential rise in stressors on board. Anxiety regarding incidents in the Red Sea is also on the rise among seafarers.

There is still a substantial need for mental health education for all those at sea, and many incidents and injuries resulting from mental health issues have been recognized as preventable through proper training and compassionate leadership.

Sharing with a psychologist. Photo credit: iStock/ SeventyFour

“We believe that more clients will see the benefit of having these mental health ship visits,” said Marinos Kokkinis, Managing Director, OCS. “It is important that crew members feel that their mental wellbeing is a priority and steps are put in place so they can be listened to, with action taking place as required.

“We have people in different locations who can visit vessels, engage with seafarers and compile a report. It is enhancing the level of service we provide as OneCare Solutions and it is something that no one else is doing.”

The ship visit starts with an introductory briefing to enable the seafarers to feel comfortable, followed by one-to-one discussions between psychologists and the crew members who want to take part. Crew members are asked about their current emotional and cognitive state; ability to work and daily function and diet, sleep and exercise habits and how they look after their mental health onboard. The psychologist also looks for symptoms of distress and dysfunction and at their overall general psychological wellbeing.

“From there we go back to the client and we can provide a report which gives insight into how crew members are feeling and their needs and concerns, so the client can address these,” said Kokkinis.

Following the visit, the psychologist reports back to OCS, providing any recommendations which are shared with the client.

Charles Watkins, CEO, MHSS, said: “The overall well-being of the crew should be a top priority for any ship owner and manager. These mental health ship visits will hopefully encourage crew members to be forthcoming regarding their thoughts and feelings.

“Through collaborative efforts such as this, we have the potential to build an industry that not only prioritizes operational excellence, but also places paramount importance on the well-being of its people.”

Top photo credit: iStock/ Michael_Dodd

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