Yale study shines light on seafarer mental health issues

Credit: Olev Brovko

A new study conducted by Yale University and sponsored by the ITF Seafarers’ Trust has revealed deeply concerning levels of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation among the global shipping workforce.

The survey asked a sample group of more than 1,500 seafarers – all of varying ranks and serving on different vessels across the world – about their mental health in the preceding two weeks. It found that a quarter of respondents had suffered depression, 17 percent had experienced anxiety, and 20 percent had contemplated suicide or self-harm.

For the first time, the survey was also able to link poor mental health with a greater likelihood of illness and injury onboard a vessel. Factors associated with feelings of depression and anxiety included lack of adequate training, exposure to threats or violence on the job, low occupational satisfaction, and ill health.

“The more we talk about mental health, the more we reduce the stigma associated with it,” said Dave Heindel, chair of the Seafarers’ Trust. “This report really helps us to understand the contributing factors and provides a basis for demanding some fundamental changes in the way the shipping industry operates,” he added.

The Yale study also offers a number of recommendations to maritime stakeholders, such as training providers, trade unions, employers, and P&I clubs. These include:

  • Enhancing support for cadets, ensuring proper training, and improving complaints procedures
  • Destigmatising mental health within company culture
  • Recognising and addressing the need for interventions to take on workplace violence