Helpline launched to reduce seafarer suicides

Helpline launched to reduce seafarer suicides

Singapore shipmanager Synergy Group has launched a new counselling service aimed at improving mental health support for sea and shore-based maritime personnel.

iCALL is a free psychological helpline for the worldwide maritime community, not just Synergy staff, and is available 24/7 in nine different languages via phone, email and the chat-based nULTA App.

“Numerous studies into the psychological health of seafarers have shown that large numbers of seafarers suffer from obvious manifestations of impaired psychological wellbeing such as social isolation and depression,” said Capt Rajesh Unni, CEO and founder of Singapore-headquartered Synergy Group.

“That’s why we decided to create a 24/7 counselling centre for anybody who’s sailing, not just Synergy personnel. It is also available to shore-based personnel anywhere in the world. These types of problems can’t be wished away when people get off the ship.”

iCALL, which is confidential and anonymous, is available in English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Sindhi and Kutchi.

The service currently has 14 counsellors all located at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai to ensure peer support, supervision and standard professional counselling services. All the counsellors have at least a master’s degree in clinical or counselling psychology.

Addressing industry leaders, principals and maritime technology and equipment providers last month at a two-day Synergy seminar in New Delhi, Capt Unni argued that the maritime industry should do far more to address mental health issues.

“5.9% of all deaths at sea are proven suicides,” he said. “If the suspicious cases of probable suicides – seafarers that went missing at sea – are considered, then this figure jumps to 18.3% which means almost one in five deaths at sea is a suicide. By any standards, that is terrible. Compare this to deaths ashore, where only 1% of deaths are attributable to suicides. There is no disputing we have a genuine problem here.”

 

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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