Expert on the need to address PTSD in marine industry

Shipowners and the sector in general have to "be informed on the issue"

Expert on the need to address PTSD in marine industry


By Duffie Osental

The nature of seafarer’s work puts them at a higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – and an expert says that it’s imperative that shipowners understand and provide appropriate treatment for those affected.

And to help shipowners identify and treat cases of PTSD, Sophia Bullard, crew health programme director at UK P&I Club, outlined common symptoms and recommended several tips for recovery.

“Naturally, individuals that have suffered or witnessed major traumatic events can experience acute psychological distress, feel frightened, sad, anxious or disconnected,” said Bullard. “For most people these symptoms gradually subside, however, when symptoms last longer and get worse, PTSD may be developing.

According to Bullard, some common signs that a seafarer may be suffering from PTSD include difficulty concentrating and behaving recklessly; re-living traumatic events through flashbacks; a persistent negative emotional state; diminished interest in significant activities; and feelings of detachment or estrangement from others.

“Specific examples of traumatic events that may cause PTSD within mariners include witnessing a serious workplace accident, i.e. chemical explosion, fire onboard, collisions, ship groundings,” said Bullard. “While a person is most likely to develop symptoms in the hours or days following a traumatic event, it can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years before they appear.”

Bullard recommended that those suffering from PTSF should “challenge their sense of helplessness by recognising that they have experienced a traumatic event” and find ways to reconnect with the world. This includes engaging with others for support, as well as adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes physical exercise and getting enough sleep. 

“Traumatic and perceived life-threatening events are commonplace and indiscriminate,” said Bullard. “As a result, it is important for shipowners and the industry in general to be informed on the issue of PTSD, providing assistance and professional care for crew affected.”

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