My number one takeaway from implementing a mental health policy
When I was approached to write this blog post ahead of the
publication of “Practical Guidance to Shipping Companies on Improving Mental
Wellbeing” I had a huge number of avenues that I could write about. I could
easily write 84,000 words on this topic. In fact, I have. I wrote for 4 years
at sea, between my off-watches and shore leave trying to make sense of how
being at sea could be so exhilarating and breath taking but could also at my
worst leave me depressed and in one instance suicidal thoughts.
This publication is a milestone in what should give shipping companies the confidence and drive to implement a mentally healthy workplace both at sea and ashore. Throughout drafting, I have spoken to companies wishing to share best practices and to those yet to implement a policy, whole-heartedly wanting to create a culture of care amongst their workforce. I have seen seafarer welfare charities keeping their phone lines open and provide an abundance of support. I have seen unions provide a voice for seafarers who don’t feel comfortable speaking up. I have seen Mental Health training providers want to bring the maritime sector into the loop.
In short, whilst on land the last year I have seen a whole host of visible people advocating for a safe environment that nurtures mental wellbeing.
But quite honestly, these people were invisible while I was at sea. We speak often about seafarers being the invisible keyworker, but what if we were to change the lens? What if the army of policy makers, shipping ministers, union reps, and charities are invisible to them?
I personally know what it is to be on deck and feel utterly disconnected from my crew, from my employer and from myself. I know now that I actually had a whole host of people that wish I had spoken up, but I did not feel able to vocalise it at the time. I am reassured that I found mechanisms to keep myself mentally healthy at sea and subsequently enjoy a vibrant and fulfilling career onboard that began to feel like home and a crew that came to feel like family.
So in light of this publication, I ask you this. If you have a implemented a Mental Health policy, do your employees and seafarers see it? Do they feel it? The answer to making our industry a mentally healthier place is there. It is not just about putting the words on paper; it is about bringing it into living practice.
Click here to download the Practical Guidance for Shipping companies on Improving mental wellbeing