Whether you believe it, or not psychological risks exist in every workplace and the maritime industry is no exception.
Before I get into this topic I have to admit that it is one close to my heart as I’ve lost many friends and a few family members to suicide, most of which were in the maritime industry so…
please take it seriously!
In commercial vessel operations there are a number of contributing factors based on what sector you operate in, a few of these you may recognise…
- extended time away from home
- adverse (bad) weather
- poor catch rates for fishing operators
- increasing closures for commercial operators
- low prices for fishing operators
- unhappy and/or complaining passengers
- increasing restricted zones for charter operators
- ever increasing governmental requirements
- marine incidents
- alcohol/drug abuse
- issues with working between various states
If you think that these issues only affect owner’s you need to think again! Crew members can suffer from these issues which then has the potential to led to psychological distress.
Here’s a few stats from a National Health Survey conducted for the year 2017 to 2018.
- Around one in eight (13% or 2.4 million) adults experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress
- One in five (20.1%) or 4.8 million Australians had a mental and behavioural condition
- 2 million Australians (13.1%) had an anxiety-related condition
- One in ten people (10.4%) had depression or feelings of depression
Now if you take into account COVID-19 these numbers increase significantly.
Work is a big part of our lives and continually changes. It is in everyone’s interest to understand, to be proactive and to actively support people (this includes crew members) whatever the original cause or trigger.
While most people can recognise they have a problem, be it anxiety, depression or at worst suicidal tendencies they usually fail to seek help.
It’s up to everyone and in particular owners, managers and Masters to be actively involved in addressing mental health issues in the workplace.
The problem is generally due to a lack of understanding, lack of training and lack of support for workers (including crew members) experiencing mental health issues.
The good news is that it doesn’t need to be hard and doesn’t always require qualifications or massive programs.
By simply having a work environment where people feel safe to talk about psychological health, to raise things and to have conversations is the key.
Talking about these things helps everyone understand they are not alone, and it can reveal solutions.
Leaders in the field report that a psychologically healthy workplace is where an organisation:
- Establishes trust and respect amongst its members;
- Values employee and crew members contributions;
- Communicates regularly with its employees including crew members; and
- Takes employee and crew member needs into account when creating new initiatives.
We should also add to this list “good work design” as the way our work is designed affects how we feel about our job and can influence whether we feel motivated, engaged, bored or stressed at work.
When we all share the knowledge, have some skills and abilities to detect signs and symptoms around psychological health and offer the appropriate support everyone benefits including the organisation!
Also note that under Work Health and Safety a business owner/operator has the primary duty to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, workers including crew members and other people are not exposed to psychological health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking.
Our primary recommendation is to take the time to understand psychological health, especially if you’re a non-believer as it may save not only someone’s life but also your business. Psychological distress can cause serious workplace accidents which have the potential to cause serious financial and emotional issues for all parties and… they may have been avoided
Take the time to be able to identify the signs of psychological distress and how to initiate a conversation with that person not only for that person but yourself as well!
If you or someone you know is or you think they may be suffering from psychological distress including anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts urge them to contact a health professional.
Beyond Blue call 1300 22 46 36
Lifeline: 13 11 14
If you’re unsure about what to do or just need to talk about your situation don’t hesitate to contact me directly on 0423 313 790 as I have considerable experience in this area and I’m here to help!