Tag Archive for: Mental Health

Since March 2020, the marine industry has had many highs and lows. From little or no business, to high levels and too often without enough staff. Staffing in Australia and indeed the world over in most industries is an ongoing major issue.

Whilst the supply of goods by sea and some services has continued throughout the pandemic, we now face staff shortages both on sea and land which makes the working conditions continue to be challenging.

Maritime safety data and research highlight a critical need for the marine industry mental health and wellbeing to be managed more effectively, to achieve better outcomes. Here at Shorlink, we take mental health as serious as safety.

Stress can lead to mental health issues. This newsletter provides information and guidance to provide business owners’ and Masters with strategies to help alleviate the effects of stress.

It also talks about the importance of educating crew about mental health, in order to create a culture on board in which crew are able to identify when their fellow crew members are experiencing poor mental health and support one another.

Educating Crew!

It is important that masters receive adequate education on the psychological impact of stress and mental health issues. Masters need to:

  • have a good knowledge of both the short and long-term consequences of stress
  • ensure crew in their charge have appropriate information and awareness
  • establish prevention and minimisation programs
  • be able to identify crew members having problems
  • initiate the necessary assistance if required—this may include masters and senior crew being instructed in mental health first aid.

Recognise the signs of possible mental health problems!

If a crew member displays any of the following behaviours, they may be experiencing mental health problems:

  • appears to withdraw, isolates themselves, or seems quieter than usual
  • appears distressed
  • agitated or irritable
  • difficulty managing work or workload
  • more argumentative, aggressive or gets into conflicts
  • confused, unusually forgetful or has
  • trouble concentrating
  • behaving in a way that is out of character.

The following are some suggestions which can be used to assist crew members suffering from mental health difficulties:

  • spend time with the person
  • offer your assistance and a listening ear, but do not intrude on that person’s privacy. Be mindful that there may sometimes be deeper problems that underlie the initial problem they mention
  • help them with any practical arrangements they require
  • do not take their emotions personally, as this is probably a part of their reaction
  • do not downplay or dismiss their problems. Do not tell them they are ‘lucky the situation isn’t worse’—they probably don’t feel lucky
  • help them to re-establish a normal schedule as quickly as possible. If possible, include them in the activities of others
  • encourage them to be active and involved
  • encourage them to look at what they can manage, rather than just thinking about what they want to avoid.

Managing crew reactions!

After a mental health-related or other stressful event, crew members are often very sensitive to:

  • how others react to them
  • how others may describe the event and the role of the crew member involved,
  • particularly in terms of their reactions to their colleagues.

The extent to which the work/social network validates or invalidates the experience has a very important effect upon the crew members psychological adaptation or recovery.

If all crew are aware of the stressors and their potential impact, the experience of crew members having a mental health issue is more likely to be recognised and validated. If masters are aware of the principles of mental health first aid, crew are more likely to receive appropriate support following mental health issues.

Crews with low morale typically exhibit the highest risk for psychological injuries. This is because strong morale acts as a buffer or protective layer against the effects of mental health issues and other stressors.

This should be factored into decisions that may affect the management of mental health risk.

At regular intervals, the master should schedule the following:

  • An informal debrief—this provides crew with the ability to say how they are going and allows for the reiteration of mental health information and awareness
  • recognition by a valued authority— have someone, like the master, acknowledge the crew and the efforts they have made
  • follow up contact with crew members who may have been identified as likely to suffer mental health issues to see how they are travelling.

Owners and operators need to ensure that the conditions in which their crew work and live do not exacerbate mental health problems.

A crew members ability to access mental health services at sea is limited, hence the incorporation of strategies for mental health interventions is an essential service.


Shorlink’s Recommendation

Training staff, from Master to deckhands on mental health first aid is imperative to ensure the business is providing a healthy working environment.

Breaking down the stigma, both on board and ashore, regarding mental health issues. It should be no different than any other injury or illness.

Be alert for potential signs of mental health issues among crew members.

Proactively manage cases of mental health issues, including repatriation if appropriate.

Maintain a fair, just and supportive crew environment, as part of a positive safety culture. Resource poor environment is even more important.

Specific attention is needed in higher risk periods of the work-life cycle, such as during periods of contract extension, operating season and inability to take shore leave.


Tip

It all starts from the top down – both with attitude and education!

Emphasis should be given to training for mental health awareness and resilience. Owners and Masters should be trained in mental health first aid.

If you have any questions, or require assistance with training, please contact our office.

This is important! Please do not hesitate to share this with colleagues, bosses, friends and family.

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 maritime 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

The above list was prior to COVID-19 which has added extra pressers on operators including…

  • potential business failure due to restrictions
  • limited numbers for charter operators
  • crew movement from interstate
  • issues with working between various states
  • further low prices for fishing operator’s

If you think that these issue 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 contributions;
  • Communicates regularly with its employees; and
  • Takes employee 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, so far as is reasonably practicable, workers and other people are not exposed to psychological health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking.


Shorlink’s Recommendation

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!


Tip

If you or someone you know is with 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 Wayne directly on 0423 313 790 as he have considerable experience in this area and is here to help!

While all of us are feeling the impact of the pandemic to some degree many are suffering more than others and it’s those that I would like to dedicate this newsletter too.

 

 

We know tourism operators and commercial fishers have been doing it tough along with all other sectors of the industry and everyone in maritime sympathises with them.

Here’s an insight to the reality for some and also what we’ve been dealing with over the last months:

A client who was also a friend operated in the tourism sector and was solely focused on the international marketplace with a very successful operation. With the onset of Coronavirus his market totally dried up and as a result the business went into bankruptcy.

This left the crew and shore-based staff out of a job. Due to the business failure and having to put off all his staff he suffered a major breakdown and sometime later took his own life. A tragic end to a wonderful person.

Another client whose market was structured around exporting high grade product and whose business has all but closed down as the local (domestic) market is not able to support his product also had a major breakdown.

People asked him why he didn’t simply target the domestic market, but the reality is that the price local people are prepared to pay is significantly less than the overseas market pays. This makes the business unsustainable based on domestic prices.

This became to much for him as he had to lay off all the crew members, process staff and administration employees leading to him attempting suicide but was found in time, luckily!

And more recently, I was advised of another case similar to the one above which adds to the already growing list of people and businesses we are personally aware of.

While tourism numbers have been restricted but are increasing and prices have declined for commercial fishers – we are still able to operate in those sectors unlike some as those outlined above.

I’m asking everyone to just be grateful for the fact that they are still operational, even if not as before due to passenger numbers and seafood prices being down and other impacts of COVID-19.


Shorlink’s Recommendation

If you, or anyone you know is suffering badly due to the current situation please seek professional help immediately as your life is worth much more than your business or vessel.

The Coronavirus has been the cause stress including anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and even suicide so please contact your Doctor or call:

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636    or    Lifeline: 13 11 14

Tip

If you’re unsure about what to do or just need to talk about your situation don’t hesitate to contact Wayne directly on 0423 313 790 as us here at Shorlink, are always here to help!