Seafarers are dying without mental health support.

Can you help them?

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Just seven weeks ago, Ordinary Seaman Bhupendra’s parents were waiting excitedly for his phone call to say he’d landed back on Indian soil after 13 months at sea.

But the call that came on January 29 was from one of Bhupendra’s crewmates in Dubai, breaking the news that no parent can bear to hear. Their 23-year-old son’s lifeless body had been found in the boiler room the previous day, in an apparent suicide.

“The call has devastated our lives,” said Suresh, Bhupendra’s father. “My wife is totally broken, I can’t see her in this condition.”

Young people like Bhupendra are attracted to a career at sea for the money and adventure, but are often unprepared for the challenges that come with the job.

We’re doing everything in our power to stop more seafarers like Bhupendra from losing their lives to suicide. But we need your help.

Without the right training and support, problems at sea can become overwhelming for seafarers’ mental health.

Bhupendra joined the tanker, the MT Princess, as the coronavirus pandemic began to spread around the globe, causing great stress to huge numbers of seafarers working thousands of miles away from their loved ones.

Three months before he died, Bhupendra completed his contract and was ready to return home. According to the captain, the young seafarer became upset when, like hundreds of thousands of other crews in recent months, his requests to leave the ship were denied due to coronavirus.

Bhupendra told his family that he would finally be returning at the end of January, as the ship was due to be decommissioned and make its final voyage to India.

Instead, our family support worker in India, Manoj Joy, is now helping his parents as they grieve, in the knowledge that they will never see their beloved son again.

“I don’t know what happened to my son,” said Suresh, in a letter to the Director General of Shipping, pleading for more information from the shipping company.

“Sir, I hope you will understand our mental agony. We have lost everything.”

Many more families of seafarers are suffering a similar, terrible loss.

Although there’s no official record of the number of seafarer suicides since the start of the pandemic, we’ve received multiple reports suggesting a rise in seafarers dying by suicide in the past year. We’ve also taken hundreds of calls from anxious and depressed seafarers, including those who tell us they’re thinking of ending their own life.

We’re doing everything in our power to stop more seafarers like Bhupendra from losing their lives to suicide. But we need your help.

We know the best way to protect seafarers’ mental health is to surround them with care, helping to prevent poor mental health through education, and offering professional help and support for those whose mental health is suffering.

That’s why we’ve developed our unique Wellness at Sea Circle of Care approach, combining both proactive and reactive mental health support for seafarers.

Wellness at Sea helps seafarer mental health and challenges negative stereotypes of mental illness:

fewer seafarers who had taken part in Wellness at Sea felt worried or anxious at work

fewer seafarers who had taken part in Wellness at Sea felt sad at work

fewer seafarers who had taken part in Wellness at Sea agreed with the statement “I would be embarrassed if a person in my family became mentally ill”*

The Wellness at Sea Circle of Care

Through the Wellness at Sea Circle of Care, we give seafarers:

  • Training to help them manage their own wellbeing and support their crewmates when life at sea gets tough. We’ve trained more than 34,000 seafarers since 2015 and we’re expanding this in response to growing need.
  • Our free mental health awareness campaign, which has educated 1,500 crews about mental health at sea since its launch in summer 2020.
  • Our new, 24-7 helpline offering professional support for anyone, anywhere in the world who needs our help. Our trained helpline operators provide a listening ear and advice for seafarers struggling with anxiety or depression, or who just need someone to talk to. They can arrange free counselling and support for any seafarer who feels like life isn’t worth living.
  • Face-to-face chaplaincy in port, where restrictions allow. Our chaplains give crews a listening ear, practical support and can arrange counselling for those who need it.

Will you give to the Wellness at Sea Circle of Care and give seafarers this crucial training and support?

A gift of just £50 can enable us to run pre-departure Wellness at Sea training for 75 seafarers, helping them mentally prepare for their upcoming time at sea and know where and how to get help if they’re struggling.

And for £130, we can staff our helpline for a full 24 hours, offering seafarers support and counselling wherever and whenever they need us.

The impact of the pandemic on seafarer mental health means Wellness at Sea has never been more important than now.

Your gift could give a seafarer hope.

You could save their life.

* Compared to seafarers who had not taken part in any wellness training or support programme. Findings from a PHD research project in psychology from Rhodes University in South Africa, investigating the mental health of seafarers. Read more here.

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