For those at sea, life can sometimes seem as empty as the ocean that surrounds them. Seafarers are in the unique position of living at work for months at a time. Home is a cabin on board and work is literally just beyond the door. As a global health consultancy, COLUMBIA pure knows that being away from loved ones, and lacking the familiarity of home, can take its toll on mental health. Key dates such as birthdays, Christmas, and celebrations can exacerbate this feeling of separation. This Valentine’s Day we will explore tips on preventing isolation and loneliness on board vessels, emphasising the importance of maintaining personal contacts and the importance of showing how much you care. 

To ensure their well-being, it is critical that crew recognise the vital role played by their social bonds, and work together to create a supportive environment on board. Here are some ways this can be achieved. 

Open Communication Channels 

It’s important that everyone on board, from the Master down, encourages open communication both amongst the crew and also with those back home. Fortunately, today, connectivity at sea is much more robust than in the past so internet access and mobile phones can easily be used to keep in touch with family and friends ashore, not to mention with news going on in the outside world. Seafarers should take advantage of that technology to share their experiences and give, and receive, emotional support.   

Create Community Spaces 

It’s always a good idea to have communal spaces where people can gather. This creates a sense of community and encourages crew to leave their cabins and spend time with colleagues socially. They can be used for any number of activities, including games, movie nights and simply passing the time of day with others who also want to chat or even do their own thing, but with company. 

Celebrate Special Occasions 

Don’t allow special days to pass by unnoticed. On Valentine’s Day, people will be sad to be separated from their loved ones but, by coming together for a special meal for example, crew can feel cared for and appreciated. Make sure that birthdays are recognised, exchange small gifts, perhaps organise a themed event – in this way everyone on board feels supported. 

Show You Care 

Make time for each other, such as a small gesture like stopping for a short chat even when busy, can make a significant difference to the other person who may be feeling a bit down. By sharing experiences and listening when someone wants to talk, you can demonstrate that you care about your shipmates and contribute to a positive onboard environment. 

While preventing loneliness and isolation can contribute to the good health and well-being of all on board, if someone does succumb to these feelings it can lead to more serious mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety, so it’s critical that those on board recognise the potential consequences of shutting themselves off from the rest of the team.   

Prioritising mental health is not just a matter of individual well-being, it also contributes to the health of the entire ship so implementing a few initiatives can benefit everyone. Make sure there are resources and information about mental health on board so that the crew know they can speak openly about any problems they are experiencing. Another vital component of good mental health is physical activity and, if undertaken in the form of group exercise such as a game of basketball, it has the added bonus of building on the bonds of friendship within the team. 

That said, there are times when everyone appreciates a bit of personal space so it’s important that boundaries are respected. 

This Valentine’s Day, make sure you show how much you value your co-workers by celebrating the bonds that bind your team, encourage open communication, join in with communal activities and show genuine care and consideration for each other so that your vessel is a supportive and happy environment. 

Please note, all content provided is for informational purposes, and is believed to be accurate and current at the time of posting. It should not, at any time, be used in place of appropriate professional or expert advice.