Depression amongst seafarers is a serious matter. However, I am amused by the way maritime do-gooders have been approaching the problem. For instance, I hear a renewed call for greater access to the internet for seafarers. Undoubtedly, connecting with family and friends on Facebook can mitigate loneliness. But I don’t see how that would improve one’s mental health or address severe cases of depression. One maritime charity is even pushing for mandatory wellness training . How dumb and self-serving! They should come up with more daring and more imaginative solutions, such as the following:
Use colour therapy to renovate and repaint ships, including crew cabins.
The idea is not as crazy as it sounds. Indigo, for example, is said to have a calming effect on those suffering from depression and anxiety. That is according to PsyWeb.com, one of the world’s largest sites dedicated to depression and mental health.
Install jacuzzis for officers and crew.
Providing the crew with decent and comfortable accomodation as mandated by ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, is not enough. Seafarers should also be able to relax in a jacuzzi. The underwater jets of water will massage their bodies, relieve stress, and induce a sense of well-being.
Have a well-stocked bar on board.
Excessive alcohol intake can lead to depression and should be discouraged. But what’s wrong with a swig or two? The bar should be open only in the evening and on certain days of the week — say, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Devote shipboard space for a karaoke lounge.
Seafarers need an outlet for expressing their emotions. A karaoke lounge is ideal for this purpose. A monthly singing contest can be held with prizes donated by the maritime charities.
Photo credit: Kobay CC-BY-SA-3.0 licence
Organise shipboard tours by known singers and musicians.
American singers such as James Brown and Sammy Davis Jr. performed for the US troops in Vietnam. Why not have similar tours for seafarers whilst their ships are at port? Seafarers may not suffer from shell shock, but they need morale boosters. Crew members can take selfies together with popular musicians instead of obscure Bible-carrying pastors who do ship visits.
Distribute scrabble and other board games to seafarers instead of self-help pamphlets.
Depression is not a DIY problem. Severe cases of the condition require psychological counselling or drug therapy, not self-help materials. Playing scrabble can help seafarers deal with loneliness and improve their proficiency in maritime English.