How loneliness triggers mental disorders in sailors – Prof. Coker – Blueprint Newspapers Limited


Professor of Psychiatry in the Department of Behavioral Medicine, Lagos State University College of Medicine, Ikeja, Professor Olurotimi Coker, believes that shipowners and regulatory bodies, in particular the Nigerian Administration and of maritime safety (NIMASA), must pay attention to mental health. sailors. This aspect of the well-being of seafarers, according to the researcher, has been neglected for too long.

How can shipowners provide emotional support to ship crews?

Shipowners can provide emotional support to seafarers by training medical personnel on board to recognize crew members who show symptoms of emotional disturbance. If medical staff are not trained to recognize these mental health problems, they will not know how to manage and treat them. Indeed, initially, mental health disorders begin to manifest themselves physically with signs and symptoms of malaria, weakness, body aches and fatigue. These are like the first signs of malaria or typhoid fever. So, if the attending medical personnel do not know that mental disorders such as anxiety disorders, depression, panic may be underlying such physical illness, then there may be a problem.

Additionally, during my research, I discovered that most ships did not have medical personnel on board. I don’t know how true this is – that a certain ship that usually has more than 30 crew members does not have medical personnel. This is something we need to make aware of. Even though the crew members are 10 years old and leave for two weeks, there should be medical personnel who need to take care of their physical and mental health on board.

Loneliness is associated with being on the sea for many months. If not treated early, what can it lead to?

Loneliness is also one of the causes of mental health problems. During the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic that forced many people to stay at home for five to six months, especially the elderly, incidents and the prevalence of mental disorders increased dramatically. People had nowhere to go and were listening to negative news about the pandemic. It triggered a lot of anxiety, panic, and depression in people. So now let’s do an analogy with someone who has been on the ship for four weeks. If that person does not have stable emotional health, social well-being, easily make friends on board, and is not engaged in creative pursuits, what will happen to them? ?

Loneliness can trigger certain mental disorders in sailors such as anxiety, panic, phobia, depression and those who had physical or mental health issues prior to embarkation may have a resurgence of these conditions on board. Someone who lacks social welfare, that is, the ability to build and maintain relationships, to make friends easily, would be alone for eight weeks if a sea voyage also lasted a long time. And that’s why we advocate that they create recreational activities like karaoke; that they learn to sing and dance on board, to play table tennis if possible, and indoor games to keep these sailors actively occupied when not on duty.

Recently you said that kissing and hugging a spouse is one of the ways to maintain mental order. How to achieve this given the long stay of seafarers at sea?

Well, the idea behind it is that charity begins at home. Love, unconditional agape love begins at home. If you are at home, get closer to your partner. Kiss her, kiss her, so that when you are away you still think about that bond of love and you hope and yearn to want to return to that love quickly. So it is essential that you not only get closer to your spouse, your children, your siblings, your parents, and this is also part of social well-being. Family is the only unit of socialization and if you don’t have love in your family then you are in trouble. Can you imagine someone leaving for four to six weeks and arguing with their wife before leaving home. He would certainly feel some emotional discomfort while he was away and of course such a person wouldn’t be eager to go home. Therefore, this does not only apply to seafarers, it also applies to everyone. Whether you are a sailor or not, you need to be very close to your spouse and family members for you to have adequate emotional well-being.

What about the assessment of the health of seafarers?

Well you know if you want to start working anywhere you will be required to take a physical exam to check if you are physically fit for the job. So, it’s for someone to leave for a very hectic job for four to six weeks, you have to be physically strong. Now, most people don’t know that it is not necessary to be strong alone physically but also mentally and emotionally to withstand the dangers they encounter at sea. That is why we propose for the well-being physical, mental and emotional sailors. When they don’t assess them and determine which ones are mentally fit, they collapse at sea. And it’s less of a member of your staff who wouldn’t be efficient, productive, and involved in every job task. . It is therefore very important that mental health issues are assessed and assessed before embarking on this long journey.

It is also essential that we assess their mental health upon arrival. It’s like a soldier who went to war. On their return, they receive an information session called psychological first aid so that, when they return to society, they integrate socially into their family and into society. They wouldn’t have what we call post-traumatic stress disorder. Now, if they’ve been attacked by pirates at sea or if someone has died, or if they’ve had turbulent waves, you know it can be very scary; this could affect their family life and productivity upon their return as they may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Post means weeks, months, and years after they’ve suffered an overwhelming trauma, so they can still be disturbed. And when they are disturbed, unfortunately no one recognizes that their emotional conditions were affected while they were at sea. That is why seafarers have to be assessed before and after departure and that is what the seafarers have to do. Nigerian Maritime Administration and Security Agency (NIMASA). If NIMASA can’t do it, Mission to Seafarers and other marine industry NGOs should. This is where the media comes in to inform people and educate them about the mental health of seafarers. However, no one is really watching in this area and that is the beauty of the recent Mission to Seafarers Symposium. to make us aware that the mental health of seafarers has been neglected for decades.

What are the medical measures to be applied when carrying out treatment at sea?

Medical staff should be trained on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of common mental disorders, which include anxiety disorders, panic, phobia and then depression. Thus, such medical personnel would have been or should be trained on how to provide counseling services known as talk therapy on board. And in the milder and moderate stages of mental disorders, you can treat them with talk therapy, which is just a tip. After recognizing the signs and symptoms, you then counsel the person on how to use psychological strategies to overcome the signs of fear of the unknown, increased heart rate, fear of water, etc. Thus, the person recognizes the manifestation of the mental health problem. and tips on how to overcome them. In severe cases, staff then prescribe medication to help them overcome these manifestations.

Source: Ship and Port News

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