Mental health support and solutions urges industry to tackle fake news

To coincide with World Mental Health Day tomorrow (10th October), Mental Health Support & Solutions (MHSS), specialists in providing mental health support and guidance to the maritime sector, is urging the industry to tackle fake news because of its effects on seafarers’ mental health.

Misinformation about COVID-19 surrounding lockdowns and government restrictions is adding unnecessary stress to seafarers and MHSS Founder and Clinical Psychologist, Charles Watkins, is calling on the industry to tackle the root cause and to communicate better to prevent it spreading and heightening anxiety onboard vessels.

Social media is often a double-edged sword with the obvious online communication benefits cruelly contrasted by the isolation it creates with seafarers missing their families and not physically communicating with each other, he said.

But problems start to emerge when seafarers, cut off from the outside world, find themselves believing what is in effect, fake news on social media.

MHSS Founder and Clinical Psychologist, Charles Watkins, said: “By losing a vital aspect of supervision and colleague-to-colleague interaction, seafarers can find themselves not knowing what information to trust.

“We hear of seafarers going online and listening to uncorroborated stories and conspiracy theories. This creates an uncalculated variable that is bringing more anxiety to the entire problem with seafarers not knowing what is true and what is false.”

At times like this, it is important seafarers understand they need to check and verify the information they may receive. It is not just mental hygiene but also social media hygiene, said Charles Watkins. It is also important that they limit the time they spend on social media – maybe to just twice a day. Overuse can cause anxiety and worry and distractions at work.

He added: “The industry needs to be more aware and monitor the fake news on social media and tackle the root cause. Charles Watkins adds: “Communication is the key here. The industry needs to communicate better to enable transparency which will stop fake news infiltrating social media.”

MHSS manages a free Mental Health hotline which offers round the clock confidential and professional psychological support for those onboard and ashore. For further details on the services MHSS can offer, please visit: https://www.mentalhealth-support.com/