Movember is an annual event involving the growing of mustaches during November to raise awareness of men’s health issues. Over the years, the campaign’s focus has become increasingly centered around mental health in addition to testicular and prostate cancer. Shipping has been established well as a male-dominated industry as around 98% of all seafarers worldwide are men. This article focuses on the importance of raising public awareness around seafarers’ mental health and wellbeing as this health issue seems particularly significant this year. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause instability and uncertainty.
Movember looks at mental health through a male lens
The World Health Organization estimates that 510,000 men die from suicide globally each year, which is, on average, 1 man every minute of every day. The Movember community is on a mission to reduce this rate by 25% by 2030 while focusing on prevention, early intervention, and health promotion. It is being observed that men are slow to take action when they experience a health problem. In some groups, man’s acknowledgment that he has a health problem, especially a mental one, is still understood as his weakness.
According to the Movember Foundation Investment Strategy, the following are behavior trends which contribute to poor men’s health
“Growing up in Baltimore City, I always felt like I had to “be the man of my family,” “be strong,” and “deal with it.” I always felt I just needed to survive and be better than I was because, unfortunately, that’s the stereotype for black men in the inner city. As I got older, I began to realize the trauma that mindset had caused me.”- Eric Bigger, read his story here.
“I reached the point where I believed I was a complete failure, and I thought that my family would be better off without me.” – Justin Geange shares his story about losing his job.
“My dad, mom, and brother have suffered from mental health issues, namely anxiety, my whole life. And I was on the brink of suicide before I finally got help.” – learn on the impact these life events had on Robin Ferrie’s career choice.
Mental Wellbeing Amongst Seafarers
According to ISWAN, seafarers, who spend many months away from home working in challenging conditions, may be more vulnerable to mental health issues than the wider population. It is important to note that low connectivity onboard or sometimes no connectivity reduces the chances of constant communication with their loved ones they can trust and share their problems with. In the #SeafarersPointOfView interview hosted by Safebridge and SafeMetrix, Vitalii Sologubov, a seafarer from Russia, highlighted communication as one of the most important practices during the crew change crisis:
” My wife advised me to stay in contact with my colleagues onboard. It was important for them to know that you are making some steps, taking some actions. Because for them, it’s even worse. I believe it’s worse to stay on board rather than at home because my family at least surrounded me.”
Vitalii Sologubov and Emmanolia Kolias during the #SeafarersPointOfView interview
Moreover, ISWAN highlights that multicultural crews often live in close quarters with colleagues who may not have anything in common. This can leave seafarers feeling isolated. Furthermore, the effects of bullying and harassment can be far greater in a ship environment where there is no escape from the perpetrator. And the fact about piracy and crises at sea can not be ignored as they cause anxieties and stress amongst the crew members.
Are you or someone from your crew having a bad time? These are the tips which might help you in this situation:
- We support Movember’s initiative and invite you to start a conversation because “talking saves lives.” Is there a person who is always in his cabin while onboard and avoids socializing? Initiate a conversation – start with a simple question “How are you today?”. It might be a slow beginning to deeper communication.
- Are you at home waiting to rejoin the vessel? Send a voice or video message to your fellow seafarers and show your support. This will also help you stay connected to your colleagues and share some work-related questions, which you might not about at home.
- Contact Seafarer Help and get professional psychological advice to help you cope with anxiety or stress and guide you on the further steps towards a better mental state.
- Visit Movember.com to read life stories from men worldwide, sharing their way of coping with uncertainties and challenges in their lives. Movember.com content and free resources are available in more than 10 languages.
- Attend our #SeafarersPointOfView talks, where we talk about life at sea, challenges seafarers face today, how to stay mentally strong, and many more. It will be a nice change of environment for you and great knowledge exchange with those interested in shipping. Contact [email protected] for more details.