According to the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), calls and messages from seafarers regarding mental health issues have increased by 37% in the last quarter across all helplines operated by ISWAN. The helpline data for Q2 2023 reveals the various mental health challenges faced by seafarers in the maritime industry, including bullying and harassment, homesickness, stress and anxiety, and personal matters. Cases of abuse, bullying, harassment, discrimination, and violence were reported by 16% of seafarers, with discrimination based on sexuality or religion and bullying by senior officers being common issues. Homesickness and isolation were also identified as major concerns. In addition, seafarers reported work-related stress, anxiety about physical health issues, and substance abuse. These challenges are exacerbated at sea due to the absence of usual support networks and the close living quarters with co-workers.
ISWAN’s helplines provide a safe and non-judgmental space for seafarers to seek support when they are struggling. The helplines are available 24/7 and aim to ensure that support is easily accessible. The data collected from seafarers’ calls and messages help ISWAN identify trends and areas of need, allowing them to respond effectively and inform the wider industry. The organization aims to share these insights with others in the industry to encourage similar support initiatives.
The increase in mental health-related contacts from seafarers highlights the importance of addressing the diverse range of challenges they face. Bullying, harassment, homesickness, stress, anxiety, and personal matters all contribute to the mental health difficulties experienced by seafarers. Providing accessible and non-judgmental support is crucial in helping seafarers cope with these challenges and improve their overall well-being.