Mental Wellbeing blog: by Grahaeme Henderson

During my involvement in the maritime industry, I have been witness to the tragic consequences of mental ill-health amongst our seafaring colleagues. As a society, we are becoming increasingly aware of mental health challenges, but when we look at the statistics on suicides amongst seafarers, it is clear that more needs be done to support seafarers and improve their wellbeing.   

Understanding the issue and how to help is key, so we commissioned a study to look at the factors that most influence seafarers wellbeing. It is the largest study into seafarer wellbeing to have been carried out anywhere in the world and includes the detailed review of nearly 700 academic papers, more than 60 publications, and 28 interviews with health professionals, experts in human factors, psychology and wellbeing from within Shell and other safety-critical industries, including construction, nuclear, military, aviation, and rail.

The results showed that when seafarers are in good physical and mental health, there are fewer accidents, incidents and adverse events, and result in a more motivated crew who want to do a great job for their company. It determined five key areas that most influence seafarers’ wellbeing: fatigue, the work environment, the nature of the role, socialisation and leadership.

Using the insights from the research, we have developed practical materials that can be used by all seafarers onboard vessels, and ashore by ship managers to implement the crucial support structures necessary for crew wellbeing.

We have brought together these materials, along with resources from other organisations that support seafarers wellbeing, on maritimewellbeing.com. The website and app that has been developed alongside it  are freely available to the entire maritime community and aim to get seafarers involved with talking about mental health, break down stigma and signpost where help can be found when needed.

This short video introduces the maritime wellbeing website and underlines the role we all play in promoting wellbeing, to help us reach the goal of a zero-incident industry with every seafarer returning home safely to their family and children. The app can be downloaded from within the website or direct from your app store.

No seafarer should feel unsafe or miserable at work. Our industry is playing a vital role in keeping the world's supply chains moving, yet the current reality for a lot of seafarers at the moment is extended tours and difficulty returning home due to travel restrictions. The physical and mental wellbeing of our seafarers is more important now than ever, so your support is essential in sharing these materials to help us create a thriving culture of care.

Grahaeme Henderson