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Crew Health Director Sophia Bullard, introduces the new initiative from the Club in tackling mental health amongst Seafarers:
Four years ago the UK P&I Club highlighted a need for change on the back of a steady flow of suicide cases. Nowadays topics on seafarer mental health are frequently seen in the maritime press and online and this is progress. Since we started working on the mental health of crew we have focussed our attentions on recognising the signs and tackling the symptoms via bulletins and fact sheets for our members.
Certainly for the Crew Health team mental health is an ongoing topic which we will continue to research and work on to reduce the stigma which is still often associated with reporting mental health problems.
However, quite often we get asked if all the talk about mental health is actually going to make a difference to the lives of seafarers. It’s even been said we need to stop focussing on statistics and concentrate on the person first, and actually, I tend to agree. Poor mental health is likely to affect the majority of people at some point in their life.
So we decided to look at ways we can improve mental health amongst seafarers and actively do something to help. As mental health is such a broad subject, tackling it means taking a wide-ranging approach from various angles; education and awareness to develop our knowledge on the subject and help us notice the triggers and signs; early identification to ensure the best chance of recovery and self help in addition support are just some of the key points to focus on.
The current initiatives the Crew Health team have investigated centre on options for self help and prevention of poor mental health.
One such option is relaxation recordings. It doesn’t take up lots of time nor need any special equipment or investment. Sometimes being able to step away for a few minutes and give yourself some space is all you need. Breathing techniques, relaxing music and meditation can help you take control and reduce stresses and strains.
For over 9 years I have been using relaxation recordings regularly after reading an article about techniques to assist with insomnia. At first I was sceptical, but within weeks I realised the relaxation tracks were working. The breathing techniques in particular really help me to relax after a busy day. It clears my mind and I benefit from a good night’s sleep. In fact, I often fall asleep within 10 minutes of the start of the recording. I find the techniques particularly helpful not just for aiding sleep, but at all times in life. Listening for 10 minutes on the train can really help me focus on the day ahead.
So perhaps relaxation and meditation recordings can also work for seafarers too? This question started our project on relaxation techniques as an aid for positive mental health.
The Crew Health team met with clinical hypnotherapist and leading meditation practitioner Andrew Johnson to learn more and the end result is now released via our mindfulness web page. 4 short mp3 recordings together with a booklet called “Introduction to Relaxation” cover the basic steps of relaxation. Each recording takes only 10 minutes. Why not give it a go?"