World Mental Health Day: Focus on suicide prevention

Mental health awareness. Credit: Getty Images

Human Rights at Sea (HRAS), in collaboration with Gillian Higgins, international barrister, mediator, and mindfulness teacher, has published a briefing note on how mindfulness can help in suicide prevention.

The briefing note, titled Mindfulness for the Maritime Industry, came about after a UK P&I report that was published earlier in 2019, identified that seafarers have the highest risk of stress among occupational groups. High stress is a known factor affecting mental health as well as being a contributing factor to suicide, which was highlighted in the report as the “top cause of seafarer deaths”.

In the briefing note, Higgins, who was a member of the legal team that advised on HRAS’s 100 Series Rules for the Use of Force at Sea, explains how mindfulness can help improve the mental wellbeing of crew. Higgins shares what inspired her to start practising, as well as some of the benefits that may be reaped from ‘mindfulness’ practices and how to get started.

Higgins explains that mindfulness is “all about paying attention to moments of everyday life with curiosity and openness, on purpose. It involves dropping into our present moment experience and being aware of what we’re doing, while we’re doing it, with a non-judgemental attitude”.

According to the briefing note, research has shown that our minds wander 46.9% of the time, and the implication here is that crew then fall into a negative headspace, which increases stress. The briefing advises seafarers on coping techniques using ‘mindfulness’ approaches, for example, “When your mind gets distracted and wanders off into thinking, worrying, or planning, simply notice where it has wandered to and gently guide it back following the physical sensation of the in-breath and the out-breath.”

The Human Rights and World Mental Health Day briefing note was published on 10 October 2019 and can be downloaded here.