A life at sea: a look at the mental health challenge for seafarers

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Visiting her father onboard the Ardmore Sealion, Janya Malhan is struck by the gravity of responsibility faced by those who work at sea and gains new respect for seafaring and those who choose the career path. Writing for our internal publication, the Ardmore Standard, Janya explores the intricate relationship between life on board and mental health, delving into the vivid realities and experiences of seafarers who bravely navigate the waters of isolation, stress, and uncertainty.

Life onboard is a unique experience, a world unto itself where the vast expanse of the ocean becomes both a workplace and a home. Amidst the grandeur of the sea and the ceaseless rhythm of ship operations, seafarers face a myriad of challenges that can impact their mental wellbeing.

The vast oceans hold not only tales of adventure and trade but also hidden battles fought by the courageous souls who navigate their treacherous depths. While seafarers are the lifeblood of the shipping industry, their mental well-being is often overlooked amidst the backdrop of rolling waves and distant horizons.

Embarking on a voyage to visit my father, a seafarer, opened my eyes to the hidden world of mental health challenges faced by those who brave the seas. Stepping onto the ship, I had the privilege of witnessing first-hand the realities of isolation, stress, and uncertainty that seafarers endure daily.

Boarding the vessel, the vastness of the ocean became a constant reminder of the isolation seafarers experience. Surrounded by endless waves and separated from the comforts of home, seafarers become immersed in a world of solitude. I spent hours conversing with crew members, hearing their stories of longing for loved ones and the challenges of being away for extended periods.

From ensuring the safety of the crew to managing complex machinery, seafarers’ shoulder immense burdens. Long working hours and the need for constant vigilance leave little room for rest and personal rejuvenation. I observed the toll this pressure took on them as they navigated through stressful situations, striving to maintain the smooth operation of the ship.

Life at sea is synonymous with uncertainty. During my time onboard, I witnessed the unpredictability of weather patterns, encountering storms that tested the crew’s resilience. Seafarers must constantly adapt to changing conditions, making split-second decisions to keep the ship and its cargo safe. As seafarers face the unknown, they must grapple with the psychological strain of an ever-shifting environment, which can take a toll on their mental well-being.

My personal journey onboard to visit my father exposed me to the hidden realities of seafarers’ mental health challenges. The isolation, stress, and uncertainty they face create a complex landscape that requires immediate attention.

Ardmore Shipping offers a variety of services and wellbeing programmes to alleviate stresses of work at sea, however, there are many examples in shipping where this is not the case. The industry must follow Ardmore’s example and prioritise the mental wellbeing of seafarers by implementing comprehensive mental health support programs, fostering awareness and understanding of the struggles faced by these key workers, and breaking the silence surrounding mental health issues. Let us unite in advocating for the mental health of seafarers, ensuring they receive the care and support they need on their voyage towards a healthier and more resilient seafaring community.

Wellness at Ardmore

At Ardmore, we work hard to ensure that our people at sea and ashore are healthy and well, both physically and mentally, and hope to lead as an example for the rest of the industry when it comes to the treatment of crew. Our seafarers have access to a 24/7 free, confidential, multilingual helpline to provide support whenever they may need it.

We recognize the importance of easy and frequent connectivity between seafarers and their family and friends back home – a crucial component of mental health, which is why we continually work to improve the internet speeds onboard our vessels, with Starlink currently being rolled out on all vessels.

We also encourage our seafarers to socialize together and to support one another. The recent introduction of the Bazeport video-on-demand system on board all our vessels has helped the crew to interact more by meeting in recreational rooms to watch popular movies and content together.

For more information about our health and safety standards, visit: https://ardmoreshipping.com/policy/health-safety/