July 3rd, 2019

Group asks ILO to make ‘wellness training’ mandatory for seafarers

An international seafarers group called on the International Labor Organization (ILO) to include wellness training as a minimum requirement for seafarers working on board a ship due saying depression causes many suicides at sea.

Sandra Welch, Sailors’ Society’s deputy chief executive officer, explained that stress due to work pressures and lack of rest, including long working shifts, could have a terrible impact on seafarers’ mental health and could lead to depression.

She said Sailors’ Society conducted a survey on seafarers’ mental health with Yale University and the results highlighted that more than a quarter of seafarers show signs of depression. Welch also noted that a previous study from the International Maritime Health journal showed that 5.9 percent of deaths at sea are attributable to suicide and that this increases dramatically if probable suicides — seafarers going missing at sea under suspicious circumstances — are taken into account.

“These are shockingly high rates — and one suicide is one too many. The fact that six times as many deaths at sea are attributable to suicide highlights how urgent an issue mental health at sea is. That is why we are launching our ‘Not on My Watch’ campaign and asking the ILO to make wellness training a minimum requirement for seafarers to work on board a ship.” Welch said. The Maritime Labor Convention is an ILO convention that regulates living and working conditions for seafarers. It has been ratified by 92 member states, representing more than 91 percent of the world merchant shipping fleet.

Welch said, “Seafarers tell us that wellness training makes them more confident to handle the pressures of life at sea. If more seafarers are equipped with basic wellness training, they will be empowered to identify the signs of depression and know how to get help.”

“We believe this will have a significant impact on seafarers’ mental health and reduce the number of suicides at sea.”