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iCall helpline launched to deal with mental illness of seafarers

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Key objectives of launch is to sensitise on issues of distress, mental illness, gender to build skills for responding to concerns of mental health empathetically

Synergy Marine Group, in collaboration with iCall and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) launched a helpline number for well-being and oriented concerns of seafarers.

iCall was inaugurated by Capt Rajesh Unni, Founder and CEO, Synergy Group and members from the seafaring community.

Speaking on the occasion, Amitabh Kumar said “Mental health of seafarers is one area that has caught the attention of the industry which really believes in processes, safety and security and mental health really compromises on safety and security. This is one area which needs a solution, a lot has already been done to identify the causes of the failing mental health of seafarers, especially in the context of Indian seafarers. I am glad that the Synergy Group and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences have come together to find a solution to launch the helping number that helps I’m well-being of seafares. The efforts being put in by Synergy Marine Group, iCall and Tata Institute of Social Sciences towards this endeavour are laudable and praiseworthy.”

The key objectives of the launch was to sensitise on issues of distress, mental illness and gender; to build skills for responding to concerns of mental health empathetically in a gender sensitive manner and to equip participants with self-help coping mechanisms for addressing their own distress and offer support to others at sea.

“Fact remains that seafarers from the south and south-east Asia constitute a majority of the seafaring workforce and come from a unique socio-cultural background. Seafarers are sure to suffer the debilitating impact of psychosocial issues given the social isolation when onboard ships. Effective training options on wellness and stress resilience awareness are imperative and indispensable in addressing this problem. Any shipping organisation needs to commit to a positive ‘wellness at sea’ culture. Seafarers too need to have an open culture onboard concerning psychological health. Mental health issues onboard ships are hazardous and need to be addressed with the same urgency and commitment that we address safety-related issues. Training should be made mandatory for senior ship board staff to equip them with skills to address and promote psychological well-being of seafarers at sea to ensure that no seafarer takes the extreme step just for lack of help.” said Capt Rajesh Unni in his keynote address.

Dr Aparna Joshi, Project Director, iCALL , in her welcome address said, “Creating a helpline number and the network of support for seafarers is extremely necessary to address issues of mental health. It will further help in eliminating the stigma around mental health and encourage seafarers to come forth and seek help. We are proud to be launching this one-of-its kind psycho-social curriculum which aims at responding to well-being-oriented concerns among seafarers. Initiatives such as these will contribute significantly to sustainably building a better quality of life for those on board.”

iCALL, a nine-language service designed to reduce seafarer suicides and enhance the general mental health and wellness of all maritime personnel. The service is available 24×7, free of charge via phone, e-mail and a chat-based nULTA App.

“The worrisome fact is that the majority of the callers to the iCall helpline are in the age group of 18–25. This clearly indicates that we need our senior officers onboard to understand and enhance mental well-being at sea and also respond to the emotional / psychological distress of seafarers onboard. In a nutshell, they need to take on the role of wellness champions,” added Capt Unni.

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