Poop deck view and the white sky on the background

Mental health: Listen and be a hero

Time Stamp: June 25, 2018

Location: Underway to Galveston, Houston Texas

Crew on emabrakation deck of a freefall lifeboat

Crew on embarkation deck of a free fall lifeboat

First of all, Happy Seafarer’s Day to the awesome sailor’s of the seven seas! Today is the day that we celebrate our importance in keeping the world go round with the honest conduct of our noble job. And as proposed by the International Maritime Organization, we will celebrate it by shedding some light on a major issue that currently haunts the work life environment of working at sea and around the world, this is with regards to our mental health and the alarming rate of suicide incidents.

The state of mental health on board ships is now on the spotlight as the suicide rate among seafarers had rapidly increased from 4.4 percent of 2015 to 15.3 percent in 2015-2016. Figures from U.K. P and I Clubs show 300 percent increase making suicide as the most common death at sea. Numbers from 2001-2005 manifested the same observations making seafaring as the second highest number of suicide rates amongst all professions.

Tugboat and the white skies

In the world view, National Institutes of Health’s statistics recorded 24 percent increase on suicide rates worldwide over the past 15 years. In the U.S. alone , 121 people commits suicide per day, a very alarming reality that deserves all the open discussions and solution recommendations it could get from experts in mental health, national governments and international organizations.

Did some digging and found some signs about suicidal tendencies that any individual could manifest.

1.Intense suffering manifested through behavior

The feeling of despair, helplessness, low energy, excessive or lack of sleep, and difficulty in making decisions are just some of the symptoms that a person is troubled, a compassionate talk and show of empathy could help ease out internal tensions. Depression is also an obvious indication, another serious illness that needs urgent professional help. Be a friend and help them seek expert advice.

2. Sudden mood swings

This looks normal from the outside since all of us have mood swings all through out our normal days, but be attentive if the behavior becomes extreme, violent and a lot frequent, — in case of emergency, call health care professional immediately.

That even for a brief moment you could become that person’s hero.Poop deck view and the white sky on the background

3. Delicate adolescent stage

Parents should be mindful of the behavior of their children especially during this  awkward stage since all the personal troubles in and out of their body happens rapidly and simultaneously. Instead of judging behaviors and cutting out communication, talk to them, lend an ear and to help understand what your child is going through. They need parents who can be their friends at this important stage.

4. Reliving of traumatic events

A death of a love one, guilt, getting fired out of job, catching serious illness and being a victim of bullying, are some of the trigger factors that haunts the person suffering from mental trouble. Anxiety sits in and the fear of not knowing solutions to problems intensifies the burden, giving them reasons to let go of the things that matter most. Consequentially losing grip of their own interest in living.

5. Verbal Signals

Some people having thoughts of ending their lives, somehow give away signs verbally as a scream for help. Sometime a facebook status, cryptic posts, or negative ideas, sent out in the open are some of the most  obvious signs that a person is carrying too much burden emotionally. The point is, these signals could be taken lightly as occasional petty outbursts, but be attentive to positively respond, an encouragement from a friend could help lighten things up.

 6. Substance Abuse/Addiction

Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, borderline personality dis order, bipolar disorder PTSDs, and traumas from physical or sexual abuse are usually tied up with substance abuse, drug and alcohol. Dependency on the addictive substances leads to poor cognitive judgment , most of which lead to suicide.

What you can do to help?

If you happen to observe these scenarios from your friends, family members or even workmates, best way to address this matter is to:

  1.  Listen to the person and offer positive advice.
  2. Be patient and compassionate in your dealings with the person.
  3. Encourage to seek the help of a medical professional.
  4. Keep people (especially family ) around the person aw.are of his condition.
  5. Show concern as a friend and always encourage to focus on the good side.
mental health awareness

Mental health awareness

On board it is still a taboo topic, not only because this kind of problem may also affect performance assessment of the seafarer, making job security another factor for neglecting the symptoms. Also according to Sophia Bullard, Director of the U.K P & I Club Crew Health Program, machismo culture dominates the seafaring world, but it’s also due to poor mental health education. “Cadets and younger inexperienced crew can be educated on the practicalities of life at sea along with support from other crew during their time on board. Schemes such as ‘mentoring’ of crew may be considered if deemed helpful. Positive steps for the future must include effective education”.

I couldn’t agree more, the issue of mental health may have been ignored for years but the numbers are rising, and the sad truth about suicide not only on the maritime sector but all over the world knocks on the doors of everyone concerned. If the person experiencing the signs and symptoms as mentioned earlier is you, please seek medical attention as soon as possible, talk to a friend or family member about it, always think that there are better solutions than ending your life. You are bigger than your troubles and your life matters.

This is a shout out to all those who like I have lost a family member from suicide. Stay strong, God won’t give you something you cannot handle. Losing a person from suicide brings up regrets of what you could have and should have done, but understand that we all have our own battles to fight. My prayers are with you as I also pray that those we lost will finally have peace.

My simple advice though, be a listener. You’ll never know whose life you are saving just by giving your valuable time and lending open ears. That even for a brief moment you could become that person’s hero. Always remember what Plato once said. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

In case  you ever need it and I wish you won’t, this is an international hotline open 24/7 for anyone who needs help dealing with mental health problems.

Contact: 1-800-273-8255

For more information about the topic, feel free to browse some of these references:

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

https://www.maritime-executive.com/article/bbc-looks-at-seafarer-mental-health

6 Signs of suicidal behavior to recognize before it’s too late

One thought on “Mental health: Listen and be a hero

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