by Charles Watkins

Online Connectivity And Onboard Disconnect

The internet on board a vessel has quickly become one the major reasons seafarers decide to go with the employer in question. And, it makes sense since connecting with family members and friends helps aide the isolation at sea. Yet, there is a serious problem with not connecting with the people around you on board. This trend is alarming.

Research from Yale University and charity the Sailors’ Society in 2018 revealed that more than a quarter of seafarers suffered from depression, while a survey last year, conducted by Yale University once more, in conjunction with the International Trade Federation Seafarers’ Trust, showed 20% had either considered suicide or attempted suicide.

So, the question is - what has changed? Well on the one hand, bad news reaches seafarers in real time, but the distance and helplessness remains the same. And on the other hand, they seem to be a lot less connected with the people on board. Other seafarers don’t seem to notice when someone is feeling depressed. But how could they notice - since the internet is also creating less interaction among each other.

So, one of our challenges is to reestablish social interaction among the crew. This may suggest that the organisational culture on a ship needs to adopt to the new challenges. We may also need a check list or a warning system that can be used to identify people at risk. However, we definitely need your active participation. If you can share any insights or have any questions please don’t hesitate to call.

It remains a sensitive issue indeed. I want to really reach out to everybody who is reading this and say - It’s completely alright not to be ok. And courage is defined by people breaking the silence and giving or asking for help. I cannot stress this last point enough. Thank you for taking the time to think about this sensitive issue, and how we can inspire positive change.

Charles Watkins
MHSS

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