UK P&I Club crew health director Sophia Bullard is urging the shipping industry to let seafarers know where help is available if they are struggling with mental health issues.

“We must continue signposting these services to ensure our members have access to training initiatives and crew know where to get support when they need it,” Bullard said, ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September.

She pointed to services such as the ISWAN Seafarer Help service, the Mission to Seafarers’ WeCare programme and the Sailors’ Society Crisis Response Network.

Befrienders Worldwide also has a global network of outposts providing emotional support for seafarers.

Help is available from the UK Club’s own crew mental health page, Stella Maris and the Sea Hospital Society advice & information line.

In her role at the UK Club, Bullard has been involved in cases of seafarer suicide and has become a mental health first-aider.

“I have learned to recognise the signs, engage someone and connect them to a resource for further support,” she said.

Suicide also affects relatives, colleagues and close friends who are left wondering why they could not help.

“The loss of a seafarer to suicide affects not just the seafarer’s family but all those on board who worked with their colleagues and friends. There is usually an overwhelming sense of ‘I cannot understand why they took their life’,” she said.

Emotional Crisis

But the warning signs are often difficult to detect.

“Signs of the emotional crisis were masked, ignored or not understood, and the seafarer was left alone,” she pointed out.

The Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) and the Maritime Charities Group commissioned a team of specialists who created a standard for seafarers’ mental health awareness and well-being training.

The standard has been published by the MNTB and is available.

“If one suicide can be prevented by the information circulating for World Suicide Prevention Day, then it’s all worthwhile…” Bullard said.