Fatal pirate incident leads to warning that seafarers need urgent psychological first aid and professional mental health support

Yesterday’s tragic news of the fatal pirate attack on the Turkish-flagged boxship Mozart, which left one seafarer dead and 15 others kidnapped, brings into sharp focus the need for urgent psychological first aid and professional mental health assistance in situations like this where you need to support the remaining crew onboard.

Christian Ayerst, CEO at MHSS, said: “MHSS’ thoughts are with the next of kin of the deceased seafarer and with the families of the kidnapped crew, and those left onboard. The series of events which struck the vessel are deeply upsetting. It’s likely to increase anxiety in the seafaring community, especially for those entering areas known for piracy attacks.”

Specialists in providing mental health support and guidance, MHSS provides support to seafarers with 1:1 therapy and also offer a free mental health hotline number which offers round the clock confidential and psychological support onboard and ashore.

Charles Watkins, Clinical Psychologist and Managing Director at MHSS, said: “Such an attack by pirates raiding a vessel can cause serious mental and emotional wounds among the crew. They may feel a range of cognitions and emotions like anxiety and/or survivors’ guilt.

“This may traumatise them, understandably. They may go through a range of PTSD symptoms or other symptoms related to trauma. They’ve lost a friend, a work colleague, they’re going to mourn their loss. They’re also likely to worry about how events could have unfolded differently and picture other scenarios. This is a lot to process and may take some time to recover. We’re hopeful that the kidnapped crew will be freed too and offered therapy upon their release. They should all be professionally supported with access to psychologists to assure all of them have access to the help they need and deserve.”

MHSS is creating a Psychological First Aid (PFA) course designed to educate crew on how to deliver psychological first aid in a traumatic situation before professional support can get involved. It’s scheduled to be launched in February. The aim is to provide band aid until clinical psychologists can provide professional support to them.

The company also runs a series of workshops to help train seafarers to cope under stressful situations but also prepare them should they be kidnapped. MHSS can provide seafarers will tools to give them resilience in extreme situations to manage things but also relaxation therapies such as meditation and breathing techniques. Our team of professional psychologies can also provide tailor-made workshops.

CEO Christian Ayerst (pictured)  added: “This incident is a stark reminder to the industry that seafarers need professional psychological support more than ever. It’s the maritime industry’s responsibility to provide it. The seafarers have a weight of worries on their shoulders from managing the crew crisis, Covid, their loved ones – and then also terrifying pirate attacks to contend. The industry needs to take action and invest more in mental health. We owe it to our seafarers.”