OSM has chosen The Day of the Seafarer to launch a global campaign aimed at safeguarding and improving the mental health of its 11,000 crewmembers. The year long initiative, christened How Healthy is Your Mind: An OSM Seafarers’ Guide to Positive Mental Health, will be pushed out across the 500 plus vessels managed by the business, addressing an increasingly pressing, but often overlooked, industry issue.
According to a recent report carried out by Sailors’ Society and Yale University, some 26% of seafarers have regular feelings of being “down, depressed or hopeless”, while studies by the Seafarers’ International Research Centre (SIRC) suggest that some key conditions for good mental health at sea (such as sleep quality/fatigue) appear to be in decline.
“This is a global issue and should be a matter of utmost concern for our industry,” states OSM CEO Geir Sekkesaeter. “Being on-board vessels for long periods of time, separated from family and friends, is difficult enough, and if conditions aren’t optimal then seafarers can be acutely vulnerable to mental health challenges. That’s easy to understand, but can be difficult for the individuals concerned to talk about. As such there’s a tendency to ‘sweep these things under the carpet’ and that only exacerbates the problem.
“Here at OSM we want to raise awareness and tackle the issue head on – for our crew, but also for our business and global customers. If our people are happy and healthy they can carry out their duties more effectively. This leads to efficient, safe and optimal operations and performance. And that’s good for everyone.”
The campaign forms an element of OSM’s commitment to the UN Global Compact (UNGC) initiative, aiming to further incorporate it into operations to achieve the highest standards for the four key UNGC areas of Human Rights, Labour, Environmental Protection, and Anti-Corruption. OSM has selected a number of UN Sustainable Development Goals to focus on in its drive for improvement, with the mental health push falling under ‘goal three’, Good Health and Well-Being.
Key messages and information will now be rolled out across multiple channels, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) the My OSM app, circulars, on-board posters in communal areas (e.g. mess rooms), the OnBoard magazine, and digital learning tools. Masters will ‘own’ the initiative on vessels, pushing it out to crew, discussing its impact in Shipboard Safety Meetings and encouraging reports of incidents and actions. Areas that will be highlighted include fatigue, being away from home, stress, bullying and sexual harassment, amongst others.
Fighting the stigma
“We want to remove the stigma attached to discussing issues that impact upon mental health and address any areas where we could improve our performance,” concludes Sekkesaeter. “We actively encourage all crew members to get involved, as well as our diverse range of customers and the industry as a whole. Together we can help effect a change, fostering an environment where safeguarding mental health is always on the shipping radar.”
A thorough assessment of the impact of How Healthy is Your Mind: An OSM Seafarers’ Guide to Positive Mental Health will be conducted, with feedback garnered through engagement surveys, the IRIS management system and cloud based learning tools.
OSM submitted its first UNGC report earlier this year and is already underway with numerous worldwide initiatives, including work to highlight opportunities for female seafarers (who remain under-represented in maritime) and a feasibility study to re-launch the Mozambican Higher School of Nautical Sciences.