It was not too long ago that strident voices filled the air with talk about depression at sea. The hubbub now seems to have subsided. The problem that was said to plague many seafarers, driving some to commit suicide, is no longer a hot topic for discussion.
Did the problem suddenly go away? Did people grow tired of the rhetoric and slogans? Or did the charities, the most vocal proponents of seafarers’ mental health, get enough big corporations to buy into their wellness training programmes?
Whatever the reason, everyone should welcome the return of calm to the whole issue. The charities had tended to exaggerate the extent of the problem. They made depression seem like an epidemic sweeping across the world of seafarers. Paradoxically, they minimised clinical depression by suggesting in the little pamphlets they handed out that the problem could be addressed through mindfulness and other practices.
In the process, the charities unwittingly projected an image of seafarers as weak and vulnerable creatures who are prey to the meanderings of their own minds. Is this not a great disservice to the men and women who work at sea?