Navigating Mental Health at Sea: A Guide for Seafarers

Posted May 22 2024

Navigating Mental Health at Sea: A Guide for Seafarers - Navigating Mental Health at Sea: A Guide for Seafarers

Whether you work in yachting or onboard cruise ships, life at sea can be thrilling. You get to travel, meet new people from around the world, and save money, among other perks, but it also comes with its unique challenges. There are long days and nights, you're away from family and friends, demanding guests, and little free time, which can take a toll on you mentally. Here are some proactive tips you can start including in your day-to-day life and resources if you find yourself needing mental health and wellbeing support.

Find Your Inner Zen

One of the best practices for improving your mental health is taking time to meditate. Finding a quiet moment amid the chaos of daily life can seem impossible, but even short meditation sessions can work wonders in managing stress. Consider taking a few minutes each day to focus on your breathing and clearing your mind. You might be pleasantly surprised by the peace it brings. Apps such as Calm and Headspace are a great way to get started.

Find Your Circle of Trust

At some point, we will all face adversity at work and in our personal life. Rely on your support system. When you have a circle of friends that you can trust to listen to your worries, concerns, and upsets, you will feel uplifted. Take time to reach out to friends who don't work directly with you but understand your situation. That way, you are not causing more anxiety among crewmembers but still relieving your own stress by talking through issues.

Sharing your concerns with others can have a profound impact on mental health. When individuals open up about their worries, fears, or struggles, it not only reduces the burden of carrying these thoughts alone but also fosters a sense of connection and support. Verbalizing difficulties can help in processing emotions, gaining new perspectives, and receiving advice or reassurance from others who might have faced similar challenges. This act of sharing can be incredibly therapeutic, as it often leads to a decrease in feelings of isolation and stress.

Prioritize Exercise

Depending on your role onboard, you may already be quite physically active. If you're not, try to carve out time for exercise. Physical activity isn't just about getting in shape; it also has immense mental health benefits. When you exercise regularly, your body releases endorphins, those feel-good hormones that can lift your spirits. Whether a walk onshore, a swim, or an onboard workout, prioritize physical activity to boost your mood and energy levels.

Your Sleep Routine

This is tough when you're working onboard, but getting a good night's sleep is another crucial pillar of mental health that often gets overlooked. Quality sleep is vital for your body's recovery and mental rejuvenation. Consider it an essential part of your self-care routine. From rings and activity trackers to apps, many tools and wearable devices can help you fall asleep and track your sleeping habits.

Embrace Free Time Ashore

When you're able to make it ashore, take some time for yourself. Whether it's visiting your favorite shop, grabbing a coffee, or catching up with friends and family back home, do something you enjoy. Skip alcohol and other activities that aren't great for your overall health and wellbeing, and focus on activities that will leave you feeling mentally refreshed and rejuvenated.

It's OK to Ask For Help

Some causes of mental distress aren't fixable by meditation, exercise, or a good night's sleep. Whether you're experiencing trouble at work, such as bullying, sexual harassment, or violence, or you're just having problems coping in your personal life, it's ok to reach out for help.

While there's more work to be done, there's a lot more awareness about the mental health struggles that seafarers face and the resources that one can turn to. If you have Health insurance, check your policy to see if it includes mental health counseling and services. Depending on the plan that you're on, you may be able to access mental health services without paying a deductible, co-pay, or co-insurance or involving your HOD or management. Check your policy for details.

If you ever feel like your work environment, worries, anxieties, or stress are impacting your day-to-day life, reach out for help before it becomes a bigger issue. As maritime professionals, your mental health matters, and seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Here is a list of services that are designed specifically for seafarers:

  • SeafarerHelp: 24/7 free and confidential support for seafarers.
  • Yacht Crew Help: 24/7 free and confidential support for yacht crew.
  • Seas the Mind: Offers mental health first aid training for yacht crew.
  • Safer Waves: Support for seafarers who have experienced sexual harassment, violence, and gender discrimination.
  • Professional Yachting Association: This association represents professional yacht crew.
  • Nautilus International: International trade union representing seafarers providing advice and legal support.

Talk To MHG

At MHG, our goal has always been to make the marine industry a better place to work and live. We understand the unique challenges you face and the Health insurance coverage you need to help keep you fit and healthy. Contact us today to learn more about our Health insurance plans for yacht and cruise ship crew and how we can tailor coverage to suit your needs.