MHSS offers free support to victims of marine disasters


The recent fire on board a cargo vessel reportedly carrying just under 3,000 vehicles including 350 electric cars is a timely reminder that the dangers faced by seafarers are not always caused by external factors but can frequently come from the cargo in the hold.

Managing potentially hazardous cargo adds to the stress faced by crew on a daily basis, particularly when something inert spontaneously combusts. This continual awareness of danger can take its toll on everyone working at sea according to Charles Watkins (pictured), Founder and CEO of Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS), a company dedicated to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of seafarers.

“We work with ship managers and owners to support their crew, helping them to build mental resilience and providing additional care for seafarers who are in further need or in crisis. But when it comes to situations like that found on the Fremantle Highway, we are always happy to provide free support to any seafarer who feels the need to talk to someone.”

As he explains, the type of stress that can result from extreme danger may build up in such a way that the person experiencing it is unaware, especially if they have had no prior training about its effects on the mind and body. Furthermore, the sleep deprivation that is frequently experienced at these times can lead to physical and mental exhaustion, in turn resulting in a decrease in focus and attention.

Another contributor to stress in hazardous situations is if seafarers feel that the training they have received is inadequate or that the technical gear and safety equipment is insufficient, if that is the case they may hold back or underperform when it matters the most, particularly if the team is not working well together.

To avoid the risk of mariners developing PTSD related symptoms after a life-threatening situation such as an onboard fire, it is important that they regularly receive quality training and receive mental health care after the event. Otherwise there is the potential for all these stressors to build up, causing the seafarer in question to break down or even quit shipping altogether – not good for the seafarer and also detrimental to the industry as a whole.

“In these situations the after-care we offer can help the seafarer to work through any unexpected symptoms of post-traumatic stress and other challenging feelings that may accompany the aftermath of traumatic experiences at sea. We hope to not only aid them in dealing with the current situation but also prepare them to face any future challenges that may come their way.”

MHSS employs a wide range of different clinical therapists from copious regions around the world. This allows them to offer individualised solutions ranging from behavioural interventions to psychoeducation about integrating body and mind into the recovery process.