ISWAN : Implement Mental Health Policies For Seafarers PDF

ISWAN’s earlier series of Good Mental Health protect and promote their own mental health at sea.

An essential new guide Mentally Healthy Ships has been launched by ISWAN to provide shipping companies and ship operators with information to help devise and implement mental health policies and practices to promote and protect seafarers’ mental health.

ISWAN’s earlier series of Good Mental Health Guides, published between 2017 and 2018, aim to offer seafarers evidence-based information about what they can do to protect and promote their own mental health at sea. These guides were designed to adapt the evidence base to the seafaring population by carefully considering ways in which strategies to maintain good mental health and promote wellbeing could be practised on board.

Strategies of mental health and promote wellbeing could be practised on board.ring ways in which

However, some of this self-help advice is only possible if the facilities are made available to the crew. Employers have a critical role to play in executing their duty of care, through mitigating known risks where possible, and ensuring that systems, procedures and structures are in place to create a mentally healthy environment on board.

Mentally Healthy Ships is written by Consultant Clinical Psychologist and author of ISWAN’s Good Mental Health Guides, Dr Pennie Blackburn.

It offers invaluable guidance on why it is vital that procedures and safety planning include due consideration of mental health, as well as information on how to implement it.

Shipping industry

Dr Pennie Blackburn said: ‘There has been a growing awareness in the shipping industry of the importance mental health and wellbeing has in how well we people can function both on shore and on board. I am delighted to be able to share this new guide and I hope that the principles outlined in it will give companies practical and useful ideas to guide them to create Mentally Healthy Ships.’

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The COVID-19 pandemic and related crew change crisis has put unprecedented pressure on seafarers with prolonged time on board exacerbating existing risks to mental health and presenting new challenges. During the peak of the pandemic, ISWAN’s 24-hour helpline

Increase in the number of cases

SeafarerHelp saw a threefold increase in the number of cases and is still dealing with an increase in cases compared with the same time last year.

Many companies have recognised the risks to seafarers’ wellbeing caused by the pandemic and have taken important steps to improve the support available to seafarers during this time.

The crisis has highlighted a great need for all companies to review and strengthen protections to seafarers’ mental health as a priority and this new guidance can offer the necessary tools to ensure policies and procedures are robust.

Guide for vessel operators

ISWAN Executive Director Roger Harris said: ‘Working with shipping companies and others on the mental wellbeing of seafarers has convinced us of the need to produce a comprehensive guide for vessel operators on this key area.

We know that this guide will practically help companies develop a mentally healthy environment onboard for all their seafarers.’

This much-needed resource complements ISWAN’s other work on seafarers’ mental health having worked closely with shipping companies over the last few years to provide Maritime Mental Health Awareness Training and assistance with mental health support through its 24-hour services.

Next year

Mentally Healthy Ships is available free for download at www.seafarerswelfare.org/seafarer-health-information-programme/good-mental-health/mentally-healthy-ships and ISWAN is inviting expressions of interest for an online masterclass on how to make best use of the guide to go ahead early next year.

ISWAN would like to thank Steamship Mutual for their sponsorship of the guide and the International Chamber of Shipping for their endorsement.

Click here for free download of ‘Mentally Healthy Ships’


The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) is a membership organisation which works to promote and support the welfare of seafarers all over the world.

Seafarers bring us 95% of the things we use every day and take care of us when we travel by sea, but their lives are often tough. They experience long periods away from family and friends with limited or no communication, fast turnaround of ships in ports with severely restricted shore leave, reduced crew numbers and increased workloads. Welfare services and facilities both on board and ashore can be a lifeline for seafarers.

Our free, 24-hour, multilingual helpline, SeafarerHelp, is one of the direct welfare services we provide to seafarers. Others include our relief funds for seafarers and their family members in need and a range of health information resources.

We work with companies, unions, governments, welfare organisations and ports for the implementation of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. We support those who establish and provide welfare facilities and services in port and on ships.

We are funded by membership subscriptions, grants from foundations, sponsorship and earned income. We are grateful to our main funders – the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, The TK Foundation, Seafarers UK and Trafigura Foundation – for their continued support.

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