Shipping companies need to go beyond indexes when asking themselves what can be done to address the alarming rates of mental health disorders amongst seafarers.
That was the key message delivered by leading health and wellbeing provider OneCare Solutions (OCS) and its affiliate, Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS), when they staged the first ever ‘Sailing Minds’ mental health for seafarers conference.
The event on 24th January which was co-sponsored by LOCKTON OMNI, Columbia Shipmanagement, CSM Energy, Turkiye Denizcilik Federasyonu and Marine Medical Solutions – attracted a broad range of delegates from across the Turkish maritime community including ship owners, managers and cadets.
During the conference, OCS and MHSS imparted valuable insight into the mental health challenges faced by many at sea through a panel discussion and keynote speeches. These included a session on ‘Case Studies and Lessons Learned’ which shared real-life cases and was delivered by MHSS CEO Charles Watkins, Chief Clinical Officer Güven Kale, and Clinical Psychologist Gülsüm Ozsari.
Other conference speakers included Capt. Arif Bostan, President of Turkish Maritime Federation, and Cihan Ergenc, President of the Turkish Shipowner Association.
OCS Managing Director, Marinos Kokkinis, who opened the proceedings, told delegates: “From our experience, greater improvements can be made for seafarers’ mental health if the culture is supported from the highest levels of the maritime industry. Recognising the first subtle signs of mental health problems, emboldening seafarers to speak about their concerns, empowering them to support others and promoting wellbeing – these are the measures that need to be coming from the higher tiers of the maritime hierarchy.
“Owners and management need to show their crew that help is readily available, there is no shame or punishment for accessing such services. Crew should be encouraged to make use of the services as and when they are needed, without fear of being stigmatised, or worse, not have their contracts renewed.”
The Sailing Minds panel session explored various aspects of mental health in the maritime industry, with panellists including Dr Jens Tülsner, CEO, Marine Medical Solutions; Johann Meyer, Managing Director, CSM Germany & Northern Europe; Capt. Nildeniz Sütçü Şen, Maritime Pilot, Advisory; Mrs. Ulkem Gurdeniz, General Manager of LOCKTON OMNI Insurance Brokers; Mrs Cihan Ergenc, President of Turkish Shipowners’ Association; and Capt. Gokhan Ayaz, Co-Founder of Marine Mental Management & Maritime Psychology Association of Turkey.
The conference ended with an engaging open forum, fostering an inclusive environment for participants to actively engage, share perspectives, and contribute to the ongoing dialogue surrounding the mental health of seafarers.
Following the conference, Mr Kokkinis said: “We hope this inaugural event will have proved useful for many in Turkey’s maritime community and we now plan to replicate this Sailing Minds event in other locations, so we can spread the awareness of seafarer mental health challenges. Through this comprehensive approach, our goal is to raise awareness, reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues, and drive positive change within the maritime community.”
MHSS CEO, Charles Watkins, added: “This inaugural mental health for seafarers conference marks a significant milestone in addressing the often-overlooked mental well-being of maritime professionals.
“As maritime clinical psychologists and industry experts, our focus was to share real-life cases that not only highlight the unique challenges faced by seafarers but the invaluable lessons that can be gleaned from these experiences.”