Maritime Mental Health Survey

Head Office Circular: NP/157/21
Our Ref: HSR/2/6
4th May 2021
To: The Secretary

Dear Colleague,


Further to Head Office Circular NP/144/21, dated 4th May, let me take this opportunity to thank all members who participated in our survey.

At its meeting on 11th May, your National Executive Committee resolved as follows:

That we note the results of the maritime mental health survey and refer this matter into our
maritime subcommittee for examination and report. Additionally we note that it's mental health week and therefore instruct the General Secretary to produce a press release highlighting RMT’s proactive approach to tackling mental health with this survey and results as an example of our work on the subject.

Further updates to be placed in front of the NEC at the earliest opportunity ahead of a
maritime grades mental health media, poster and organising campaign that will follow.

A press release was issued on 12th May as follows:

RMT calls for action to protect seafarers’ mental health

MARITIME UNION RMT has called for new action to protect seafarers’ mental health following a survey of its seafaring membership as part of the activities it is undertaking for Mental Health Awareness Week (10th-16th May). The challenges faced by seafarers are compounded by the fact they are isolated from family for weeks or months at a time, in what may become an oppressive environment where isolation abounds.

Key findings from the survey reveal that over 77% of members find themselves becoming anxious from time to time, although less than 36% have anyone to talk to onboard about mental health issues.

Of those who have access to a telephone counselling service (and nearly 42% do not have such access), nearly 72% do not have a regular point of contact, something RMT believes is very important in terms of establishing trust and confidence when discussing sensitive and personal issues.

Nearly 66% of employers do not provide any funding for counselling services ashore and the same percentage of members are unaware of any company policy on mental health.
Sadly – and astoundingly, given today’s supposedly progressive attitude towards mental health issues – nearly 48% of members have encountered hostility or ridicule in regard to mental health issues.

Key symptoms members have experienced include lack of sleep and tiredness, worrying about minor things, sweating, short temper, lack of confidence, mood swings, nausea, nervousness, over-thinking, panic attacks, heart palpitations, lack of appetite, headaches, anxiety and depression.

In terms of what members would like their employer to do to support them, some key thoughts include awareness; listening; production of a policy; provision of more properly trained mental health first aiders; provision of courses; a positive and proactive approach in conjunction with the Union; funding for counselling, wellbeing and occupational health; more information about company policies and the production of policies where they do not exist; more areas for workers to socialise after shifts – for example gyms and open outside areas; provision for more undisturbed rest; employment of more crew; reconsideration of total smoking bans; stopping pressurising staff to stick to strict scheduling. just someone to talk (a “friendly ear”) – maybe via a helpline; the recognition by employers of the effects of Covid-19 on employees’ mental health; proper sick leave provision where it does not exist; and greater access to home communication.

Members have asked RMT to educate its representatives and provide courses; to consider a counselling service/telephone helpline; provide eye catching posters and literature to work with employers on the promotion of mental health support; and to negotiate on the matters above which members would like their employer to do to support them.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said:

“This survey shows employers need to remove the stigma which still exists with regards to mental health.

“They need to listen, respect confidentiality, and stop treating seafarers as an afterthought and put in the resources that are needed.

“The challenges faced by seafarers are compounded by the fact they are isolated from family for weeks or months at a time, in what may become an oppressive environment where isolation abounds.”

Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of relevant members.

Yours sincerely

Michael Lynch
General Secretary