Alandia and Blå Mediamentor team up to support mental health among seafarers
Mental strain is a tangible and steadily growing occupational hazard affecting seafarers all over the world. Although frequently mentioned in social media, news and different maritime forums, the problem with seafarers’ mental health has persisted. To support seafarers’ mental health, Alandia Insurance has teamed up with Blå Mediamentor and designed a mental health training package for seafarers. Blå Mediamentor is a culture provider for shipping companies and collaborate with experts in psychology and mental health.
The global maritime industry has seen a steady rise in mental health issues among onboard employees, and the incidence of reports has risen rapidly during the 2020 pandemic. Still, not much has been done to change the situation.
Seafarers may work onboard for long periods at a time and be separated from family and loved ones. In addition, onboard working conditions often offer limited opportunities for rest, recreation, and physical activity, all of which are important ingredients of a healthy lifestyle that promotes mental wellbeing.
During the past year, the passenger segment in global shipping has been impacted severely and many employees have been laid off, which has created uncertainty about the future and given rise to feelings of resignation and anxiety among many professional seafarers.
According to Johanna Kull, who works as a Loss Prevention Executive at Alandia and has a background in behavioural sciences and psychology, the situation has reached a critical point:
“In a situation where uncertainty is mounting and suicide numbers are steadily growing, we need to find adequate support mechanisms to curb the trend. No one should be left alone to tackle these problems. Luckily, tools are available for building resilience. There are many ways to gain and maintain mental health – together”, Johanna Kull says.
Reducing stigma and talking about problems are key
The first step in promoting mental health is talking about how common mental health issues are and thus reduce the stigma often associated with poor mental health.
“The problem is neither new nor rare: a recent study conducted by Yale University and sponsored by the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, which had a sample group of over 1,500 seafarers, found that 25 percent of the seafarers had experienced depressive symptoms, 17 percent had suffered of anxiety, and 20 percent had contemplated suicide or self-harm in the two weeks preceding the study. Numerous interest organisations have been contacted by crew members from all over the world who have suffered from deteriorating mental health”, Johanna Kull says.
“Many seafarers still feel ashamed for having mental health issues, and this is the first thing we need to change. We need to reach a collective understanding of how our minds and bodies work and what we can do to support ourselves and each other in our everyday environments”, Kull concludes.
Supportive tools for mental health
Together with her colleague Martti Simojoki, Senior Loss Prevention Manager at Alandia, Johanna Kull has been working on a solution for supporting mental health among seafarers. In addition to his loss prevention expertise, Martti Simojoki has many years’ practical experience of working at sea in his previous occupation as a Captain on world-wide trade and Marine Superintendent in a global shipping company.
“Working away from home for long periods of time and life onboard are stressful situations in many different ways. If the stress cannot be relieved properly it will become overwhelming”, Martti Simojoki says.
In an effort to help seafarers discover ways of gaining and maintaining mental health, Alandia has collaborated with Blå Mediamentor and created a mental health training package.
“Mental health is like a muscle and as such it can be trained like a muscle. Therefore, we have created a training program that helps seafarers to exercise that muscle. Our training program is available to our customers but also as a lighter online course to anyone who needs to boost their wellbeing and resilience, since we feel that any alleviation should be accessible to all”, Simojoki states.
Mental wellbeing is for everyone
The maritime industry may seem like a niche that affects only those directly associated with it, but according to Johanna Kull, this is not the case.
“In a world where 90 percent of all goods are still transported by sea, we are all dependent on the maritime industry and the important work carried out by seafarers. Taking care of their wellbeing really is in everyone’s best interests and a collective investment in our future”, Johanna Kull says.
The training package has to different elements:
Toolbox with pre-made meetings for use in groups on board the vessels. This toolbox also includes a facilitator guideline.
Online training available for single users.