Mental health problems are no longer taboo subjects, as research shows than in the general population in the UK, one in four people are likely to experience a mental health problem sometime in their life time. Living and working at sea can add to mental strain which can be caused by spending long periods away from home, having a lack of personal time due to long hours, and exhaustion. It is well known that a healthy diet, proper exercise and interests away from work all help to create positive mental health.

When you are on board ship, you should always try and plan your day to include exercise and relaxation. Some ships now have a gym, or a basketball pitch, some have a swimming pool. Why not get the crew together to do some exercise regularly and organise some team games? Make sure that you create a positive 'out of work' mode time table. Watch films, learn to play new games, perhaps take up Mah Jong or Chess. Study a new language. Keep up to speed with health and safety regulations. Drink alcohol sensibly, if you are allowed to drink at all. Most ships are now alcohol free, and if so, make sure when you arrive in port that you don't have too many drinks. Alcohol can trigger depression and anxiety.

One of the most positive ways to relieve stress and sadness, is to socialise with people. You may not know all of your colleagues in the crew, they may speak many different languages, but find out about them. Most importantly, when you are in port, try and ensure that you get ashore. Many ships are now able to turnaround in port within 24-48 hours. You may not be able to disembark for long. But many ports have ship-visiting teams and Seafarers' Centres that provide transport and help. You can find out which Mission ports have help avaible in our ports section.

If you are feeling that your mental health is worsening and is a medical problem, please arrange to see a doctor in port as soon as you can. Depression and feelings of despair, which go untreated, may get worse. You may need to speak to a doctor for medication and help. Mission to Seafarers' port chaplains are also trained in counselling and, if you are a Christian, we can help you with finding solace through faith and prayer. You never have to suffer in silence or on your own.

For more information, please go to the International Seafarers' Welfare Assistance Network (ISWAN) health information programme shop. You can download lots of helpful information. (Opens in a new window.)