Making sense of mental health matters

It can be difficult to determine who and what to trust

By Pam Kern, Pennie Blackburn & Rachel Glynn-Williams

In maritime, we have seen an increasing appetite for approaches to mental health promotion, protection, and response mechanisms, which has led to rapid expansion and diversification of mental health advice, training, and services. However, well-intentioned guidance, strategies or interventions that are not supported by clinical research or expertise may fail to help and could make things worse.

As a network of psychological practitioners that have come together in the Maritime Mental Health Professionals Community of Practice (MMHPCoP), our personal and professional knowledge and experience on land and at sea enable us to recognise and predict potential risks and harms in approaches to mental health and recommend best practice. We at MMHPCoP educate the industry with suggestions on what to look for, as shown in the infographic below. MMHPCoP members are qualified and accredited mental health professionals with experience in the maritime sector. Seafarers can use this infographic to find the right provider.

How can seafarers have the confidence to determine that the mental health material they access either on social media or other outlets is safe and accurate? Here is our ‘Top 5 Guide’ for seafarers on what to look for:

  • Social media has lots of information as well as mental health apps. Check to see if the content is updated and when.
  • Who is the author and what are their qualifications? Check the infographic to determine how well qualified the person providing the information is.
  • Is the content sponsored by a company for profit purposes? Look at the ads. • Check your home country mental health boards for reliable information.
  • ‘Share the Care’– asking someone if they are ok when you see that they might not be ok can bring immense relief to the other person because you asked them first. You don’t need to be a therapist to ask, and you won’t do harm by asking this. Helping another can start with a simple question: ‘Are you ok?’. Then you can get further support, if needed. This can save a life.

If information seems too good to be true or doesn’t feel right, question it to find out more.

Pam Kern is a maritime mental health expert, former seafarer and owner of Kern and Co, LLC Consulting. Dr Pennie Blackburn is a consultant clinical psychologist at PsiConsultation. Dr Rachel Glynn-Williams is a consultant clinical psychologist, and clinical director at Seaways Psychology Services and at Recall Recover Limited