Study finds depression, suicidal thoughts prevalent among seafarers

Professional Mariner|April 2020

Study finds depression, suicidal thoughts prevalent among seafarers
While Yale University’s recent Seafarer Mental Health Study paints a sobering picture of life at sea, it also should serve as a catalyst for improvements, industry officials say.
Patricia McCarthy

The study, commissioned by the ITF Seafarers’ Trust and released in October, was based on survey results that identified “dangerously high levels of mental stress among seafarers.”

The grimmest findings: In the two-week period before taking the survey, one-quarter of respondents had suffered depression, 17 percent experienced anxiety, and one in five had contemplated suicide or self-harm on several or all of those days. The study also linked these conditions to a greater likelihood of injury and illness on board.

The lead researcher, Dr. Rafael Lefkowitz of the Yale Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program, said the results were based on responses from 1,572 seafarers from all ranks around the world, many of whom were interviewed at Port Newark (New Jersey) and then completed the survey.

The results confirmed long-held suspicions about the stresses and strains faced by mariners, said Katie Higginbottom, head of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, which works on behalf of maritime workers. The most surprising finding and one that needs further exploration, she said, was the correlation with violence and threats of violence on board.

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April 2020