A top official of one of the biggest maritime clinics in the country, Health Metrics Inc. admitted to an increasing number of mental health cases among seafarers during the pandemic and shared important tips in preventing them.
At the webinar organized by the Maritime Law Association of the Philippines (MARLAW) last October 2, Health Metrics Chief Medical Officer Dr. Antonio Roberto Abaya said more and more shipping companies and P&I clubs were bringing up the issue of mental health.
“They have seen a steady increase in the number of mental health cases (among seafarers): depression, stress, anxiety and even suicides on board,” Dr. Abaya, one of the industry’s respected medical practitioners, said without mentioning any statistics.
He however mentioned the most common worries that preoccupies most seafarers’ mind: the uncertainty of his disembarkation; the threat of COVID-19 to his family, the risk of infection when the ship reaches its next port; the pandemic’s impact to his company and future employment; and will his savings last until he gets his next job?
“These are basic worries, but very real; so we offer solutions to them,” Dr. Abaya said so he tells the guys the following:
- get as much sleep as you need;
- eat healthy food regularly;
- exercise often;
- work to ensure you are capable of dealing with any stressful situation; and
- control your consumption of alcohol and cigarettes
Beyond these, Dr. Abaya added: “They should remember to talk to their families and friends when they’re homesick. There are plenty of helplines onboard, international organizations mostly religious organizations.”
“That’s important. We have to tell them that there’s someone else they can talk to. Lastly, don’t exaggerate the situation; don’t worry too much; and watch out to the things you read. Sometimes too much reading is more dangerous than not knowing what’s out there.”
He further commented that a few decades ago, the emphasis was mainly on the physical health of seafarers, but now equally important is their “mental resilience.”
“So please take note to take care of your body and mental state,” Dr. Abaya’s final advice to seafarers