Mental Health at Sea

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Mental Health at Sea

By Rancho Villavicencio, Executive Director,
Seacoms Maritime Development International, Inc.

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The Sailors’ Society conducted a survey into seafarers’ mental health with Yale University in 2018. The results highlighted that more than 26% of seafarers showed signs of depression yet nearly half had not asked for professional help. Around one-third had turned to family and/or friends, and only 21% had spoken to a colleague.

The major factors affecting seafarers’ mental health are isolation from family, length of contract, lack of shore leave, quality and quantity of food on board, workload and fatigue.
A peaceful mind, and a joyful heart keeps us safe, strong, happy, and healthy.
Having peace of mind allows us to sleep well, eat well, feel refreshed, and ready for work the next day. Aside from having regular exercise, listed below are 5 ways to maintain a happy and healthy state of mind on board every day. These will help your brain release the four happy hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphin. Moreover, it lowers the stress hormone called cortisol.

1. Quiet Time
Regularly set aside time to be quiet, without distractions, in order to reflect. Reflecting on positive things nourishes and protects our brain, it releases serotonin which helps regulate our mood and social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, and memory. Therefore, it boosts our well-being and happiness.

2. Attitude of Gratitude
Instead of being angry about what you do not have, think and be thankful about the many blessings that you have on board. According to Dr. Travis Bradberry, “It reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%, and improves mood and energy and substantially reduces anxiety.”

3. Personal Growth
Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and aim to improve each day. Personal growth and reaching your full potential are the only assurance that your future will become bigger and better. Achieving your growth-goal releases dopamine resulting in increased motivation.

4. Generosity
Do not forget to do good and be generous towards those with less, and never be envious of those with more. One study of adults found that the brain’s reward center, which turns on when people feel pleasure, was more active when people gave $10 to charity than when they received $10.

5. Social Connections
Social connections ease depression. Always find time to connect with your colleagues. Share your good times and bad times together, listen more and speak less, observe confidentiality, show compassion and sincerity, then provide genuine care and support to each other. According to Harvard’s longest study on happiness: “Good and close relationships keep us happier and healthier.”