Mission to Seafarers issues call to action on mental health

The following is text of a news release from the Mission to Seafarers:

(LONDON) — The Mission to Seafarers has reaffirmed its commitment to developing new mental health services in 2019 in response to increasing concerns around mental well-being at sea.

Speaking to many leading industry figures, including the UK shipping minister, at its annual Festival of Nine Carols & Lessons in London, the mission acknowledged the work many shipping companies are doing to tackle issues such as loneliness and isolation, but called for a renewed focus on reaching vulnerable seafarers who may be unable to access existing resources.

The mission also recognized the vital work of its frontline teams of port chaplains, center managers and volunteers, who address seafarers’ mental health on a daily basis.

This year the mission received a Highly Commended distinction at the Safety at Sea 2018 Awards for its shoreside services. Shoreside support is particularly vital at this time of year; whether it’s visiting ships, offering pastoral support or delivering Christmas gift parcels – often the only gift a seafarer will receive on Christmas Day.

“While many of the stresses that seafarers face are the same as they were 20 years ago, new concerns are emerging as more and more ships start to provide internet access to their crew," said the Rev. Canon Andrew Wright, secretary-general, the Mission to Seafarers. “Our Seafarers’ Happiness Index, which uses the data from our conversations with thousands of seafarers around the globe, clearly shows that a lack of connectivity is one of the greatest issues facing seafarers today. 

“Many cite poor or no connectivity as a major contributor towards unhappiness at work, leading to increased pressure on mental health. If shipping companies want to retain happy and motivated seafarers, they will have to ensure their crews have access to fast and reliable Internet.

“However, we recognize that with greater connectivity comes other pressures for seafarers. Access to real-time news about what is going on back home can also add to stress and anxiety. 

“Consequently, the mission is rolling out new programs in 2019 in response to this key issue, which will complement our existing services.”

The mission also announced that it will continue to develop and expand its global services around key maritime hubs across the globe to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving sector. 

Last month, the mission signed an memorandum of understanding with the Panama Maritime Authority for the provision of seafarer welfare services – the first of its kind in the region. The agreement will enable the Mission to establish welfare services at all major Panamanian ports, including the Panama Canal, one of the busiest waterways in the world.

At this year’s Festival of Nine Carols & Lessons, the mission welcomed Shell as its new headline sponsor. It also thanked Silver sponsors Ince & Co and Wartsila, and Bronze sponsor Fred Olsen Cruise Lines.

The mission has launched a Christmas campaign to raise awareness of the issues currently facing seafarers, particularly the loneliness many feel around the festive period as a result of being separated from their families and loved ones. 

To make a donation, or to find out more about how you can help, visit https://www.missiontoseafarers.org/why-donate.

By Professional Mariner Staff