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Health and safety

Webinar calls for end to mental health stigma in maritime

13 October 2020

Participants at an online event were united in agreement about the need to break the long-standing stigma surrounding mental health in maritime.

The webinar, hosted by the mental health in maritime network as part of Maritime UK week focussed on a range of topics including the causes of mental health issues, breaking the stigma and resilience.

The event was kicked off by Stuart Pollard, chair of the network and head of health, safety and wellbeing at the Port of London Authority who welcomed the audience and panel to what was the first webinar held by the newly established network.

Graham Fisher, a Nautilus council member and host of the shipping exchange podcast, then spoke very movingly about his own personal experiences, before going on to discuss the industry action needed to bring us closer to achieving parity between physical and mental health.

Noting that the 'pandemic has put the spotlight on the problem', Mr Fisher argued that there is often still a failure by many in the industry to recognise the issue. He highlighted the lack of research into mental health at sea, which he argued makes it more difficult to create a case for intervention.

He rejected financial justifications for failing to provide mental health support to seafarers, saying that: 'If your crew feel happy and secure, then they will be more productive, so cost should never be used as a reason not to provide support.'

He concluded by praising a former employer who provided excellent assistance when he raised an issue and asked the audience to play their part in 'showcasing companies who do the right thing'.

ISWAN project manager Caitlin Vaughan set out that training and increased awareness are key in breaking down the 'fear of the unknown', which leads to stigmatisation.

DP World HR Business Partner Verity Doughty asked the panel and audience to reflect on what more they could do to assist colleagues with their mental health: 'You don’t have to be a mental health first aider to help someone. Just asking if they are ok can be so powerful, even if all that they can manage to say is no.'

The other panellists in the hour-long discussion were Maritime UK programme manager Chrissie Clarke and former mariner Mary Garner.

The next meeting of the mental health in maritime network will be held on Tuesday 8 December 2020 from 10:00 - 12:00 via Zoom.

ISWAN provides SeafarerHelp, a free, confidential helpline for seafarers and their families around the world, providing support with issues including mental health. The service is available 24/7, 365 days a year. Seafarers in the UK can call +44 (0)20 7323 2737 or find further details at


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