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MHSS calls greater preventive initiatives to protect seafarers mental health and reduce suicides at sea

Charles Watkins, CEO and Clinical Psychologist Mental Health Support Solutions

Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS) is committed to raising awareness of the troubling situation around the high levels of suicides and the mental well-being of seafarers, who are often away at sea living and working in challenging environments for long periods of time.

As a leading provider of professional mental health support to the maritime sector, MHSS provide a 24/7 mental health hotline for seafarers which is run by clinical psychologists.

Charles Watkins, CEO and Clinical Psychologist of MHSS, believes the underlying issues leading to seafarer suicides and ill health are not reflected in incident reports or data and that “Rather than simply relying on global data analysis and statistical reports, the background and the story behind it often remain unknown”.

Mr Watkins is calling for greater preventive measures to be implemented and went on to say that numbers and incident reports do not give the information needed to identify the real issues seafarers are struggling with; using data analysis and conclusions to determine what the issues are would render ineffective any initiatives implemented as potential solutions.

“By working on preventive matters now rather than waiting for data to be represented by numbers and graphs, we can find out about the underlying causes that seafarers are struggling with and implement effective changes immediately. We already know that there are too many suicides.”

Mr Watkins is calling for seafarer surveys to be introduced to help address the issues crews face. Based on the information and conclusions presented in the surveys, he would like to implement training programmes that would directly respond to the seafarers’ specific issues. He emphasised that to fully understand the real causes behind seafarer suicide numbers, victims’ families should also be involved in the conversation.

He is clear that uncomfortable discussions like understaffed vessels and limited mental health support for seafarers need to be tackled before a true picture of the issues can be accurately addressed with long term and positive changes implemented.

Mr Watkins concludes, “The seafarers are ready to talk but the real question remains, does anyone want to listen?”