Mental Health – A Happy Ship is a Healthy Ship!

The subject of Mental Health has been swept under the carpet for a long time; it was a taboo as seafarers were supposed to be tough guys who are not affected by mental health issues. Lately, Mental Health appears regularly as a headline in various maritime publications, and it has become a topic of public interest and great concern, not only in the marine industry.

Working onboard means extended periods away from home, with limited possibilities to communicate with the family and friends, long working hours, and often stress. All these factors can have an influence on the mental wellbeing of the crew onboard.

Those of you who have attended one of our regular workshops will remember that we have included Mental Health Awareness as a topic. Teamwork and Respect are amongst the core values of Uniteam Marine, and both are important to create a harmonious working environment. A happy ship is a healthy ship, and if all colleagues team up, respect and embrace diversity, look after and support each other, most of the challenges faced can be dealt with successfully.

The World Health Organisation reports that one out of four adults in the world suffers from a mental health problem at least once in their life, so the chance that you meet somebody who is affected or even that you are affected yourself at some point in your own life is relatively high. The reasons can be diverse and differ from person to person.

Our colleagues at Uniteam Training have developed two so called Talent Cards as part of our micro-learning tool Done in 60 seconds titled Mental Health: Helping others and Mental Health: Self-help – which are addressing this subject as well.

You do not need to be a trained psychologist to notice that something is wrong with one of your fellow shipmates. If somebody experiences long-lasting sadness or irritability, extreme mood swings from very high to very low, expresses excessive fear, worry or anxiety, shows signs of social withdrawal, or changes eating and sleeping habits dramatically, these are usually signs of a mental health issue and should be taken seriously.

Small crew complements and working in shifts reduce social interaction and thus there is less opportunity for face to face conversations after working hours. Therefore, it is even more important to focus on socialising whenever possible, find activities that make you happy, such as reading, listening to music, doing sports, watching movies or taking shore leave, and talk to your fellow crew members regularly.

Do not underestimate the positive influence that a healthy diet and regular exercise have on your mental wellbeing. Eat consciously and train your body (and your mind – they are a unit) to remain (or become) a more positive person and remember: A happy ship is a healthy ship and vice versa.

Captain Thomas Reppenhagen, Sales and Client Relations Director