Mental Wellness at Sea: Before & After the Pandemic


Mental Wellness at Sea: Before & After the Pandemic

Maritime workers, unbeknownst to those outside of the industry, are considered essential workers due to the imperative nature of their work transporting goods as well as passengers around the world. During this time, the pandemic has greatly uprooted many areas of their daily and work lives, fueling new and existing mental wellness challenges.

Life Onboard Before the Pandemic

Before the spread of COVID-19, life onboard has always been perceived as a unique opportunity to travel and work at the same time. Though this is true, when the line is blurred between work and home, mental wellness challenges are inevitable.

When seafarers live on the water for extended periods of time, they are prone to experience loneliness and isolation. These feelings have later shown to lead to anxiety and depression amongst other mental wellness concerns during their time onboard. Despite being aware of the repercussions, mental health is still widely considered a stigma within the maritime sector.

With no mental wellness resources available onboard, seafarers have adapted by keeping their feelings to themselves, causing further stress and in some cases tragedies.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Seafarers Mental Wellness

As one can imagine, the stress and worry over the pandemic has only exacerbated mental wellness challenges facing maritime workers on a daily basis.

According to the Seafarers Happiness Index (SHI) published by the Mission of Seafarers, the pandemic has caused a decline of happiness at sea. This was mainly due to the inability for seafarers to sign off and return home, heavy workloads, virus fears, and a perceived lack of COVID-19 precautions onboard

During this time, seafarers also reported that:

  • Ships are sailing with fewer crew members
  • Sickness has increased onboard
  • Almost hospital-like hygiene standards are struggling to be maintained

With nowhere to go but forward, seafarers have experienced an overwhelming lack of support and respite. These feelings combined with the challenge of accessing medical services, put the seafarers still stuck at sea at risk of increased self-harm and accidents, compromising crew safety at all levels.

What is MAP and How Can It Help?

COVID-19 has cleared the way for mental wellness to be recognized and practiced onboard throughout the maritime sector. It all starts with an open line of communication to maintain a positive environment and good work relationships.

VIKAND’s Maritime Assistance Program (MAP) recognizes the need to support seafarer’s mental wellness, as well as their physical health and protection from COVID-19. MAP is a 24/7 mental wellness hotline comprised of a shore-side support team and maritime psychologists standing by to provide crew, onboard managers, and supervisors the support they need to maintain a healthy mindset.

Our end-to-end mental wellness solution includes:

  • Educational and training materials for the vessel management team
  • 24/7 and confidential access to our shoreside support team and maritime psychologists
  • Follow up meetings with the vessel management team to check up on progress and address any new mental wellness concerns that may have arose since initial contact.

Staying Mentally Well While Onboard

With the stigma of mental wellness disappearing from other industries, it’s time for the maritime sector to follow suit. If you’re ready to open the line of communication between you and your crew members or learn more about MAP, click here.