18 Mar
2021

News

Wellness at Sea “reduces seafarer anxiety and sadness”, says report

18 Mar, 2021

International maritime charity Sailors’ Society’s Wellness at Sea training and support reduces anxiety and sadness among seafarers, a research report has shown.

The preliminary findings came from a PHD research project in psychology from Rhodes University in South Africa, investigating the mental health of seafarers. Researcher Lauren Brown conducted the analysis with two groups of crew, from different nationalities. The seafarers had all been at sea for less than two years, serving on a number of vessels.

One of the groups had attended a Wellness at Sea workshop and were part of a Wellness at Sea peer support programme, while the other had not attended any kind of training on wellness or mental health.

Nearly 10 per cent fewer of the seafarers who had taken part in Wellness at Sea reported feeling anxious or worried at work on a regular basis than those who had not attended any wellness training, while 14 per cent fewer of the wellness-trained crew reported regularly feeling sad at work (see notes to editors for details).

The seafarers who had been through Wellness at Sea also showed a better understanding of mental health and were less likely to stigmatise mental illness. For example, nine per cent of that group agreed with the statement “I would be embarrassed if a person in my family became mentally ill”, versus 50 per cent of the comparison group, while 26.8 per cent of the trained seafarers were embarrassed by the term “psychological disorder”, versus 55.6 per cent of the comparison group.

Johan Smith, Wellness at Sea programme manager, said: “These findings reflect what we have seen across thousands of seafarers who have completed Wellness at Sea training: even a small amount of training and support can make a big difference to a seafarer’s mental health.

“By attending just one Wellness at Sea workshop, and talking about mental health with their peers, this crew felt markedly happier at work – which doesn’t just have a good impact on their own wellness and safety, but that of the whole crew.

“Evidently, the programme also significantly changes and challenges perceptions seafarers have about mental health.

“The fact that they were less likely to stigmatise mental illness is crucially important. Breaking down mental health stereotypes brings understanding, awareness and empathy to the maritime industry while enabling seafarers to support those around them, whether at home or at sea – and making them more likely to seek help if they need it.”

Sailors’ Society’s unique Wellness at Sea Circle of Care approach combines both proactive and reactive mental health support for seafarers. The charity has provided wellness training to more than 34,000 seafarers since 2015 and has launched a free, 24-7 helpline offering mental health support and counselling to seafarers anywhere in the world.

Lauren Brown concluded in her report: “While the sample sizes of both the participant group and the comparison group were small (42 and 32 respectively), the results are significant. They indicate that the Wellness at Sea workshop has a long-term impact on wellness levels and stigma towards mental health.”

Find out about how Sailors' Society is supporting seafarers' mental health at sailors-society.org/support

Ends

About the report:

The preliminary research report, “The impact of a wellness intervention on the mental health of seafarers”, analysed a crew who had taken part in Wellness at Sea (the participant group) made up of 42 seafarers, including 32 cadets, two maritime students and eight others. Some 20 of the crew were from India, 15 from the Philippines, three from South Africa, two from the UK and two from Mauritius.

The comparison group was made up of a crew who had not taken part in wellness training comprising 32 Indian seafarers, including 26 cadets, three maritime students and three others.

Key findings from raw data included:

  • 43.1% of the participant group reported feeling anxious or worried at work regularly, versus 52.8% of the comparison group.
  • 27% of the participant group reported feeling sad at work regularly, versus 41.2% of the comparison group.
  • 26.8% of the participant group agreed with the statement “The term ‘psychological disorder’ makes me feel embarrassed”, versus 55.6% of the comparison group.
  • 9% of the participant group agreed with the statement “I would be embarrassed if a person in my family became mentally ill”, versus 50% of the comparison group.
  • 33.8% of the participant group agreed with the statement “I would not trust the work of a mentally ill person assigned to my work team”, versus 44.8% of the comparison group.

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