I remember reading the paperback edition of Sigmund Freud’s Introduction to Psychoanalysis when I was only 13 years old. My interest in psychology has never left me. As a maritime writer and commentator, I try whenever possible to relate certain issues to the mind — to the basic instincts and impulses that make people act or speak in certain ways. There’s always more to reality than meets the eye.
With that as a background, let me lay out briefly a case against the wellness training being peddled by some maritime charities. Forget that such training will only add to the training overload seafarers are now having to endure. Forget even about the profits (potentially huge) that certain organisations stand to gain from any such programme. My main objection stems from the fact that depression is a complex problem. The notion that some kind of training will prevent it from occurring and overwhelming an individual is absolutely misguided and dumb.
From Psychology Today:
Depression is not a passing blue mood, which almost everyone experiences from time to time, but a complex mind/body illness [underlining mine. – BU] that interferes with everyday functioning. It not only darkens one’s outlook, it is commonly marked by sleep problems and changes in energy levels and appetite. It alters the structure and function of nerve cells so that it disrupts the way the brain processes information and interprets experience. Despite feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, depression is a treatable condition. It can be treated with psychotherapy or medication, or a combination of both.
From the American Psychiatric Association:
Several factors play a role in depression.
• Biochemistry: Differences in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.
• Genetics: Depression can run in families. For example, if one identical twin has depression, the other has a 70 percent chance of having the illness sometime in life.
• Personality: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
• Environmental factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression.
There is nothing wrong with giving seafarers free guidelines on how to stay well mentally and emotionally. Tips on wellness can be found all over the internet. The maritime charities can print all the handouts they want and distribute them like candies. But to have seafarers undergo wellness training is something else. The very term “training” connotes something that is structured and systematic. Some proponents of maritime wellness training are even talking of a two-day course. This is so Pavlovian — and so sadly in tune with the mechanistic view of the 21st-century shipping world.
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