Tuesday, October 9, 2018

New Service to Counter Mental Health Issues for Those at Sea

Multilingual Helpline to Aid Depressed Crew
Shipping News Feature
WORLDWIDE – The pressures of working at sea, often for months at a time with crewmates who may not come from ones country or ethnic background, often not even sharing a common language, can have a serious effect on otherwise healthy individuals. Depression and even suicidal thoughts can occur when miles from home away from loved ones and such problems pose a risk beyond the affected individual. Now Singapore based ship management group Synergy has launched a new counselling service aimed at improving mental health support for sea and shore-based maritime personnel.

The new service, iCALL is a free psychological helpline for the worldwide maritime community available 24/7 in nine different languages via phone, email and the chat-based medical support app nULTA. iCALL, is confidential and anonymous and is available in English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Sindhi and Kutchi. Captain Rajesh Unni, CEO and Founder of the Synergy Group explains the reasons behind the new service:

“Numerous studies into the psychological health of seafarers have shown that large numbers of seafarers suffer from obvious manifestations of impaired psychological wellbeing such as social isolation and depression. That’s why we decided to create a 24/7 counselling centre for anybody who’s sailing, not just Synergy personnel. It is also available to shore-based personnel anywhere in the world.

“iCALL currently has 14 counsellors all located at Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai to ensure peer support, supervision and standard professional counselling services. All the counsellors have at least a Master’s degree in Clinical or Counselling Psychology. 5.9% of all deaths at sea are proven suicides.

“If the suspicious cases of probable suicides, seafarers that went missing at sea, are considered, then this figure jumps to 18.3% which means almost one in five deaths at sea is a suicide. By any standards, that is terrible. Compare this to deaths ashore, where only 1% of deaths are attributable to suicides. There is no disputing we have a genuine problem here.”

Last month Captain Unni addressed industry leaders, principals and maritime technology and equipment providers at a two-day Synergy seminar in New Delhi where he argued that the maritime industry should do far more to address mental health issues. The annual Surabhi Synergy Festival 2018 attracted a raft of industry executives, classification societies and ship management technology providers as well as dozens of Synergy’s shore-based staff and crew.

Other key speakers included Synergy principals Captain Katsuya Abe, President of Nissen Kaiun, Martin Ackerman, CEO of BW LPG, Mr Antonis Vrondissis, Vice President of Navios Tanker Management, and MOL General Managers Akura Sasa and Taku Hisai.