10 great quotes for sailors about depression

10 great quotes for sailors about depression

The maritime world is abuzz with talk about depression at sea and wellness training. Although the latter is a load of baloney, I thought I’d weigh in with some great quotes about depression. In some cases, the authors used the term “melancholy” (or melancholia, a dated term for severe depression). I trust that these quotes will provide all those suffering from depression with some enlightenment and inspiration.

…wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.

~Sylvia Plath, American poet and novelist, The Bell Jar (1963)

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken”.

~C.S. Lewis, British writer, The Problem of Pain (1940)

O melancholy!
Who ever yet could sound thy bottom? find
The ooze, to show what coast thy sluggish crare
Might easiliest harbour in?

~William Shakespeare, Cymbeline (1611)

Melencolia I, 1514, by Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528)

Is not, as you conceive, indisposition
Of body, but the mind’s disease.

~John Ford, English playwright, The Lover’s Melancholy (1828)

Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced… It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It’s a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.

~J.K. Rowling, British author of the Harry Potter fantasy series, from “J.K. Rowling, the interview” by Ann Treneman, The Times (UK), 30 June 2000

If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.

~Stephen Fry, English actor, comedian and writer, as quoted in The Telegraph (2017)

Melancholy, 1894–1896, by Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863–1944)

I sometimes lament how much more industrious I would be without my own (now manageable) depression. But I also allow that, even today, my melancholia may have benefits. It focuses me on deeper questions of where I’m going in my life, even though—or, alas, because—it makes me question the value of anything and everything: including depression itself.

~Matthew Hutson, science writer, from his article ‘Does Depression Have an Evolutionary Purpose?’ (2017) in Nautilus

I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.

~Hermann Hesse, German novelist and poet, Siddhartha (1922)

Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a soul? A Place where the heart must feel and suffer in a thousand diverse ways!

~John Keats (1795–1821), English poet,, as quoted in The Paris Review (2014)

Moonrise over the Sea, circa 1821, by Caspar David Friedrich (German, 1774–1840)

So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloudshadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, Austro-German poet, Letters to a Young Poet (1929)

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The human factor in sea mishaps: a captain’s view

The human factor in sea mishaps: a captain’s view

By Captain Ardeshir Yousefi


NOTE: The sea is one vast cemetery, as the above photo of the RMS Titanic wreck from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US reminds us. More than a century has passed since the sinking of the British passenger liner. Still, the world continues to witness horrific maritime accidents. In the following article, Vancouver-based Captain Ardeshir Yousefi takes a cold look at the human factor in such mishaps. His commentary first appeared in the Letter to the Editor section of BC Shipping News, July/August 2013 edition. However, many of the points he raised are still relevant today. I am reproducing the piece in toto with the kind permission of BCSN publisher Jane McIvor. ~Barista Uno


Despite numerous marine safety regulations and advances in ship construction & technology, we continue to witness the most appalling accidents at sea. The role of human error in maritime accidents is reaching an alarming level. Some reports indicate that as high as 90 per cent of all maritime accidents are caused by human error.

IMO introduced two major legislations at the end of 20th century which had huge effect on seafarers’ future — the Standard of Training and Certification & Watchkeeping (STCW-95) and the International Safety Management Code (ISM Code). These regulations engaged the industry for many years and diverted the attention from humanitarian needs of seafarers. The changes that came with STCW-95 were massive and the outcome was a failure.

Seafarer competency is at its lowest level throughout the shipping history. Many low-quality private training centres surfaced. The seafarers are not getting quality training and as result they don’t have the confidence to do their job. STCW-95 has set up ‘minimum standards’ and exams and certification are made so easy and with a much reduced seatime requirement that people can become a captain or chief engineer as early as 27 years old. That is a huge mistake. Everyone remembers that the captain in many places is still called the ‘Old Man’, and that is not just for respect.


Exams and certification are made so easy and with a much reduced seatime requirement that people can become a captain or chief engineer as early as 27 years old. That is a huge mistake.

The ISM Code was introduced following the capsize of the passenger/car ferry Herald of Free Enterprise. Massive operational changes ashore and onboard ships came with the Code. Additional manpower was recruited ashore to handle the work. The result was huge costs on a company’s overhead; massive paper work for ship staff; and frustration started to show up on ships. The responsibilities were increasing on ship staff and at the same time their authority was diminishing. Master’s ‘Authority’ was clearly highlighted in the Code but in practice it did not exist.

A mass exodus of experienced and quality seafarers began. Routine shipboard operations were neglected/missed and fake drills and checklist filling became a norm. The IMO’s bureaucracy and its mountain of regulations eroded the safety culture amongst seafarers. Good old seamanship is replaced by paper work and checklists.

Flag Of Convenience registry (FOC) is another major contributor to human error. Many owners prefer the FOC register to enjoy low tax and fewer labour and safety regulations. Most of the seafarers are working under appalling conditions on FOC ships with longer working hours, a less safe environment, and of course less pay and benefits. FOC ships normally have a bare minimum manning scale causing more stress, fatigue and hardship on the rest of the crew.

Seafarers feel abandoned, ignored, criminalized, intimidated and humiliated. They are overworked and frustrated. Their social life onboard ships has vanished. Training quality and competency levels are at their lowest point ever. The biggest challenge faced by shipping industry in 21st century is how to reclaim its humanity.

We are facing a new generation of accidents with ridiculous involvement of human error. The Costa Concordia is clear evidence of that. Some people are hoping that the ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006 may provide protection against seafarers’ rights but it is too late and too little. The industry is going through a long battle with a very poor market. When owners were enjoying the luxury of a good market, their time and money was wasted on regulations like the ISM and STCW.


Good old seamanship is replaced by paper work and checklists.

Drastic situations call for drastic measures. Maybe it is time to look at the option of delegating seafarers’ affairs to an independent entity like they did with ship construction and Classification Societies which have achieved good results.

Advances in ship structure and equipment may have reduced the accidents but has not necessarily made shipping safer. You cannot expect ‘Safe Shipping’ with unsafe people at the helm.

About our Guest Writer

Iranian-born Captain Ardeshir Yousefi holds both Canadian and British Master’s Certificates (Unlimited) as well as a master’s degree in maritime operations from John Moores University in the UK. His sea service spanned 18 years. He is a maritime lecturer/consultant and the owner of ASTA Marine Services Ltd. in Vancouver, BC.

This article may not be reproduced without the express permission of the Marine Café Blog administrators.

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