PTSD Has To Be Addressed Warns Underwriter

A leading P&I Club has said the maritime sector needs to raise the issue of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at sea higher up the safety agenda.

Sophia Bullard, Crew Health Programme Director at the UK P&I Club, warned given their lives at sea crews were far more likely than the general public to suffer PTSD.

“PTSD is a very common disorder, affecting 4-5% of the UK’s population, with the nature of the seafarers’ work putting them at higher risk than the general population,” she explained. “Therefore, it’s vital that shipowners can identify, understand and provide the appropriate treatment for those affected.

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

“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.”

She added that shipowners and their officers on board vessels needed to be more aware of the signs that a crew member may well be suffering, and act if they believe there is an issue with PTSD.

“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,” added Ms Bullard. “Symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty concentrating and behaving recklessly
  • Re-living the traumatic event through distressing or flashbacks
  • Avoidance of anything that reminds of the trauma
  • Persistent negative emotional state
  • Diminished interest in significant activities
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others.”

If an issue is identified, then steps needed to be taken. Whilst the vessel may well be at sea there is much individuals can do.

“Challenge your sense of helplessness by recognising that you have experienced a traumatic event and utilising active problem solving skills,” she added. “Get active by exercising to mobilise your nervous system and engage with others for support as it is important to stay connected to life and the people who care about you.

“Above all adopt a healthy lifestyle by allowing yourself time to relax, avoiding substance abuse, eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep.

“Traumatic and perceived life threatening events are commonplace and indiscriminate. 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.”