Tuesday, July 7, 2020

New Good Practice Guide to Set Standard for Design of Seafarers Mental Health Training Courses

Perennial Curse of Life at Sea Worsened by Pandemic as Crews Stranded
Shipping News Feature

UK – WORLDWIDE – One of the most poignant messages to have come from this, Seafarers Awareness Week, is the widespread curse of mental health issues suffered by the seagoing community, a situation which has noticeably worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic with many crews unable to return home for months at a time.

Now the Maritime Charities Group (MCG), a coalition of 10 major maritime charities, has joined forces with the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) to publish a good practice guide specifically aimed at designing a training course for seafarers on mental health and wellbeing awareness. The guide, the ‘Seafarers’ Mental Health Awareness and Wellbeing Training Standard’, has been written by acknowledged experts from the maritime and education sectors in response to this growing mental health crisis amongst seafarers.

Aimed at prospective buyers of training courses as well as potential participants, the Standard sets a benchmark for training that aims to develop a keen awareness and appreciation of mental health and wellbeing amongst all types of seafarers, as well as those with an interest in seafaring. It includes course content, delivery and the qualification requirements of course facilitators. Reflecting on the collaborative effort that went into developing the Standard, Commander Graham Hockley LVO RN and Chair of the MCG, said:

“One in four people will develop a mental health problem during their lifetime, but the incidence amongst seafarers is much higher. The Covid-19 crisis has made the situation for seafarers even worse so now is exactly the right time to publish this guide. We are incredibly grateful to the members of our working group, without whom this would not have been possible. They include training providers, shipping companies, the MCA, MNTB, Trade Unions, maritime charities and academics, all working together in the interests of seafarers’ mental health and wellbeing.”

MCG member the Seafarers Hospital Society took a leading role in the work. They were concerned about the proliferation of mental health awareness training courses of varying quality that did not address the specific issues faced by seafarers due to the nature of their work. The Society approached the MCG for help in bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to agree a way forward and the Standard was the result. Author of the guide, Master Mariner and academic, Dr Chris Haughton, explained why he felt the Standard is needed:

“Mental health awareness training is needed now more than ever and there are many reputable providers offering really good training courses. But the majority of those courses are generic and really don’t address the specific issues facing seafarers. If you’re working at sea you need a course that’s much more targeted otherwise it just won’t be relevant. That’s why we’ve developed the Standard, setting out clearly what a good training course should cover.”

Filling as it does a knowledge gap for a subject which often in the past has carried an unwarranted stigma, there has been widespread endorsement for the Standard from academics, trainers and industry alike. Welcoming the initiative shipping industry representative, Bob Sanguinetti, CEO of the UK Chamber of Shipping said:

“We are delighted to be working with the MCG to make this Standard available. Whilst it may not be mandatory, it is certainly advisory and we would encourage all ship owners and training providers to adopt it. But the crew have an important role to play here too. Everyone who signs up to a training course on mental health and wellbeing awareness needs to look for the MCG and MNTB logos. That’s the only way they can be assured the course will meet their specific needs and be delivered by someone who understands the environment they work in.”

The Standard is being published by MNTB and is available from maritime publishers Witherbys for a nominal £10 fee. To buy a copy click HERE.