Mental illness is estimated to cost UK businesses £30 billion every year through lost production, recruitment and absence. One in six adults will be experiencing a mental health problem at any one time, according to the Office of National Statistics. For those working at sea, mental health issues can be compounded by the pressures of being separation from family and feelings of isolation. In response, the UK Chamber of Shipping, Nautilus International and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) have jointly agreed new guidelines that will aid shipping companies in drawing up policies on mental wellbeing.
The aim is to create awareness among management of the importance of good mental health among the seafaring workforce, and to support companies in fostering a culture that is conducive to improving the mental wellbeing of seafarers. The Chamber and the unions recommend that shipping companies draw up, agree and adopt policies on mental health awareness that are in line with the guidelines.
If companies already have a mental health policy in place, such a policy should be reviewed against the new guidelines.
The advice comprises several different sections:
Policy, which covers what, should be included within company policy and how it should be promoted;
Implementation, which advises on what companies can do to support seafarers who are experiencing mental health issues;
Training, which gives an overview of how companies can train staff to recognise mental ill health in others, in order to better provide support; Assistance and Treatment, which advises on how a company can intervene with an employee who is experiencing issues, and how medical assistance may be engaged; and
Monitoring, which provides guidance on how a company should update its internal mental health policy and monitor the wellbeing and needs of its workforce.