More than one quarter of seafarers experience symptoms of depression, according to a study conducted by international maritime charity Sailors’ Society and Yale University
Some 26 per cent of over 1,000 seafarers surveyed reported feeling “down, depressed or hopeless” on multiple days over the previous two weeks. Of this group, 45 per cent said they had not asked anyone for help.
Roughly one-third said they had turned to family and/or friends, but only 21 per cent said they had spoken to a colleague, despite spending extend periods of time on a ship with them.
Factors that seafarers said have a detrimental impact on their mental health include the quality and quantity of food available on board, isolation from their families and the length of their contracts.
Sailors’ Society Deputy CEO Sandra Welch called the report a “wake-up call to the industry”.
“Seafarers spend months on end at sea, facing some of the toughest conditions of any workforce – isolation, cramped living quarters, noise, heat, storms – sometimes they’re not even able to stomach the food on board,” Welch says.
“We’re working with shipping companies to help them offer the best care to their employees, who are the life blood of the industry and our global economy.”
The study was presented during Sailors’ Society’s Wellness at Sea conference on 16 March in London. Dan Thompson, a navigation officer who took time out from his job when he became depressed, spoke at the conference to raise awareness of the issue.
“The reason I became ill was primarily my job – the workload, the sleep deprivation and the pressures of the job,” he said. “Having lived at sea I would anticipate the numbers of people suffering from depression to be even higher than those who admitted it in the survey.”