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An Awareness of Mental Health

An Awareness of Mental Health

That’s why in 2003 the International Association for Suicide Prevention established World Suicide Prevention Day in conjunction with WHO. The 10th of September each year focuses attention on the issue; helping to reduce stigma, raise awareness and highlight the fact that suicide can be prevented.

A Fitting Theme

The theme for this year is ‘Creating hope through action’ which is a sentiment shared and actioned by VIRSEC.

Not only are the statistics around suicide shocking, but also that around mental wellbeing. 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health condition at some point in their lives, and 1 in 6 will experience mental health problems in the workplace. If your workplace is at sea, what additional effect could that have on your mental wellbeing?

Unique Occupation

It comes as no surprise that an occupation in the maritime industry can be extremely challenging, with a number of major factors contributing to poor mental wellbeing.

It’s an industry built around long working hours and long periods away from home.  Add in the potential for other factors such as isolation, fatigue, precarious work contracts, poor crew relations and financial instability and you have the formula for the perfect mental health storm.

The Maritime industry is generally perceived to be a ‘man up’ environment, where mental health issues are not widely discussed, understood, or acknowledged.

Mental Health at Sea

Given the unique culture and working environment, it’s not surprising that mental health and suicide are serious issues within certain maritime occupations.

Mental health support varies widely depending upon the employer and whether mental health awareness is high on the agenda. Unfortunately, mental health issues are poorly understood across the industry and still carry a stigma which has yet to be fully erased.

The outlook isn’t completely bleak, as some inroads have already been made into providing mental health support mainly by larger shipping companies, cruise lines and some unions and charities. Organisations such as Maritime UK are addressing and raising awareness of mental health issues within the Maritime sector.

Suicide in the Maritime Industry

Although not accurately documented (there is no single agreed international framework for recording suicides at sea) it is widely acknowledged that maritime suicide is a serious issue for the reasons already mentioned.

In July this year, the Department for Transport and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency [MCA] published a joint report on Understanding seafarer suicide and its potential under-reporting which discusses the mental health of seafarers and the impacts of suicide, the support available and the potential under-reporting of suicides in the sector.

One thing’s for sure, more needs to be done to rectify the mental health challenges faced by seafarers in the maritime industry.

Poor Understanding of Mental Health Issues

Although the industry is currently a predominantly male environment with a ‘man up’ culture and a reluctance (or fear) to talk openly about mental health, can be seen as a sign of weakness, especially in some of the ‘tougher’ maritime industries like fishing.

There’s also a reluctance to open up for fear of not being allowed on board or worse, losing a job. At present, the issue is not well enough understood across the industry with some seafarers lacking even a basic knowledge of mental wellbeing.

What Can be Done?

If the recent report is anything to go by, there is an increasing desire to see the industry tackle mental health among seafarers in a more preventative way.

This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. By encouraging a culture of mental health awareness and by understanding the positive impact of mental health first aid training, discussions around mental health will become normalised.

An Awareness of Mental Health 1

How Does Mental Health First Aid Training Help?

Quite simply, it’s a skill that saves lives; it helps to prevent mental health issues from worsening, provides comfort to those in distress, and promotes recovery.

Often, (as with many maritime workers) the person who is mentally ill is unable to ask for, or even recognise that they need help. A fully trained mental health first aider is more likely to spot the signs, ask the right questions, and has the knowledge, confidence, and ability to provide assistance.

How Can VIRSEC Help?

In collaboration with a certified Mental Health Professional, we have developed two fully online, Awareness of First Aid for Mental Health courses:

Awareness of First Aid for Mental Health Level 1

Targeted at people in an organisation who may not have a supervisory position, but still have a duty of care towards themselves and towards their work colleagues. [View Course]

Awareness of First Aid for Mental Health Level 2

Targeted at supervisors or team leaders in an organisation who have responsibilities and duty of care over the general health and wellbeing of colleagues.

The aim of both courses is to provide the learner with a deeper understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect people’s wellbeing, including your own. It teaches practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues and give you the confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress and guide them to appropriate support. [View Course]

By the end of the courses, you should know:

  • What mental health is.
  • Why people develop mental health conditions and the role of a First Aider.
  • How to identify problems and risk factors early.
  • How to provide advice and practical support for a person presenting a mental health condition.
  • How to recognise and manage stress.
  • How to recognise a range of mental health conditions.

Both courses are 100% online and are accredited by the CPD Accreditation Group.

To Summarise

Mental health problems are often covered up through fear of discrimination, and a culture of fear and silence can make things very much worse and be extremely costly for employers.

Early intervention can make a huge difference, and our courses can help the learner to understand the different types of problems that exist, what the symptoms may be, and what the best steps are to begin helping the individual onto the road of healing.