The Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) has recognised the Seafarer Mental Health Awareness and Wellbeing course offered by Isca Wellbeing as complying with the requirements set out by The BMA. The course, which is non-STCW or other convention-related, is the first seafarer mental health training recognised by The BMA.
The training, which is based on the Maritime Charities Group (MCG) Mental Health Awareness & Wellbeing Training Standard, has been designed specifically for seafarers to help them to understand the different types of mental health disorders and their causes. It enables participants to recognise changes in behaviour in themselves and in others and gives guidance as to how to respond to these changes and where to find assistance and support. Finally, the course demonstrates the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ – a pathway that will help seafarers to promote their own mental wellbeing.
Both seafarers and shore-based personnel are already feeling the benefits from participation in the course with feedback showing that 100% of delegates now have the knowledge to recognise signs of poor mental health in themselves and others, and that they now know how to respond if a colleague or seafarer is facing a mental health crisis.
The BMA has long taken a proactive stance on the wellbeing of seafarers, it has launched the Seafarer COVID-19 Welfare Survey, responses from which are still being received, and so was eager to give recognition to a training course which would be of benefit to seafarers worldwide, not just those flagged with The BMA but also the wider industry. Although not a requirement of The BMA, the flag is pleased to be able to bring it to the attention of crews and their owners.
Capt Jerry Mooney, Technical & Compliance Officer in The BMA’s Seafarers & Manning Department, said, “It made perfect sense for The BMA to consider Isca Wellbeing’s approach regarding course recognition. As can be seen with our Mental Health Survey (run in collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington) we are already leading ship registries in promoting the importance of Seafarer’s Mental Health. Now, with our recognition of Isca Wellbeing’s Mental Health Training, we can also show that we are intent on doing something about it. Seafarers are the life blood of the world’s trade and we must ensure they are cared for.”
COVID-19 has undoubtedly exacerbated the mental health challenges for seafarers who, even prior to the pandemic, were already showing the effects of long periods away from loved ones, isolation, trouble sleeping, rough seas, quality of food, cultural differences onboard and job insecurity. The development of a course to help address these issues could not come too soon.
John Burden, Managing Director of Isca Wellbeing said, “There are some very good services that respond to seafarers who are in need, but we wanted to offer a more proactive approach and have pulled together a highly qualified team to create the Seafarer Mental Health Awareness and Wellbeing course. Everyone involved has a connection to maritime and understands the unique challenges of life at sea – our operational team also run a crewing agency, and our mental health trainers have a personal connection to this industry that we love. We approached The BMA with the course as we had identified The Bahamas as a flag with a particular interest in the mental health and wellbeing of its crew and as an authority which shares our ethos. The 2-day course, which is delivered either via Zoom or in person, complements our existing service in which we provide weekly mental health training and support videos to over 15,000 seafarers. We are delighted that The BMA has recognised the course and look forward to starting to work with its crews, educating them on mental health and how to look after their wellbeing, whether at sea or on dry land.”