Wellbeing survey on seafarers

Has the wellbeing of the seafarers been effected due to COVID-19 pandemic and if yes how?

Has the mental health of the seafarers been effected due to COVID-19 pandemic and if yes how?

These are the two main questions that Filistos ASCOT survey on more than 4.900 seafarers attempts to answer, but most importantly we try to provide simple and viable solutions in order to assist the organizations help their seafarers overcome these issues.

You can access the full report for free using this link.

E-learning courses

Filistos ASCOT is proud to announce the launch of our soft skills e-learning courses. Each module is between 10 and 20 minutes with a brief test at the end, assessing what the attended has comprehended from the course. Upon successful completion of the module a “certificate of attendance”  is issued, always under Bureau Veritas accreditation.

The administration process for the courses is easily conducted through the ACT online platform.

Course and Module Titles

Mental Health AwarenessModule No.1 Mental Health and Mental Illness
Module No.2 Depression
ModuleNo.3 Stress and Anxiety
Module No.4 Suicide
Module No.5 Fatigue and Burnout
Module No.6 Work Related Stress
Module No.7 Paranoid Ideation
Module No.8 PTSD
Leadership and TeamworkModule No.1 Psychological Safety and Teamwork
Module No.2 Leadership and Teamwork
Module No.3 Communication
Module No.4 Feedback and Team Belonging
ResilienceModule No.1 What is Stress
Module No.2 What is Resilience
Module No.3 Problem-Solving
Module No.4 Keeping Things into Perspective
Module No.5 Changes are Part of Living
Module No.6 Positive Communication
Bullying and Harassment Awareness
Cultural Awareness
Problem-Solving
Situational Awareness

 

For any further information you can access the following link:

https://ascot-consulting.net/service/training/

For a demo of our courses please do not hesitate to contact us in info@ascot-consulting.net

Humanitarian Crisis in Shipping and a Human Resources Crisis That Will Stay with Us For Long Time

Since the start of the ban on movements due to COVID-19, all shipping companies have been trying for the obvious, to declare seafarers, essential workers, so that the necessary changes can be made.

The consequences of this problem are multidimensional and create an equation that, now, seems almost impossible to solve for two reasons. First, situations continue to change. Secondly, the pressure experienced by seafarers is now so great that any intervention becomes particularly difficult.

Recently, Filistos ASCOT presented a study on the psychological state of seafarers, from February to May 2020. In the table below and the corresponding graph, we can see the difference between this four-month period between 2019 and 2020.

Our sample for these results is from 2479 seafarers from 17 countries and all positions. The sectors from which they come are oil tankers, dry cargo and cruise ships.

Seafarer’s Well-Being February to May 2019-2020 Comparison

From the graph above we can see that all factors related to mental health, anxiety, stress, depression, have a significant increase. It should be noted that this increase is in officers and ratings alike, which makes these results even more worrying.

The three points I would like to focus on, however, are the significant increase in suicidal thoughts from 12% to 22%, which shows almost a 100% increase of those who have thought at least once to end their lives. Also, the appearance of paranoid thoughts, due to anxiety, which also almost doubled, from 7% to 13%. But what I see as the most important element is “Job Dissatisfaction”, i.e. the tendency of the individual to want to change profession. In 2019 this figure was 6%, an acceptable percentage for any industry. In the same period in 2020, this figure has soared to 39% i.e. an increase of 6.5 times. One useful piece of information we found is that the difference between officers and ratings was also, not statistically significant. That suggests that even high-ranking officers, i.e. masters, chief engineers, will seriously consider embarking again.

But what does these numbers mean?

Under no circumstances we imply that all 39% of seafarers will leave the maritime profession. This figure is of concern because it shows the general dissatisfaction and anxiety the current situation creates. From discussions with seafarers that we have conducted for support, they understand, most of them at least, that it is not the companies’ fault but transnational, that is also not enough though. Even if no one leaves shipping, this 39% suggests an increased suspicion and the possibility of an upcoming inflexibility from the seafarers, because there will be a fear of not being in a similar situation again.

At the moment one cannot question the increased pressure felt by the people onboard, who are working longer than expected, based on their contracts, with increased fatigue and listening to what is happening, with numbers of cases and deaths of  COVID-19 in each country and suicides of seafarers who cannot be repatriated.

Also, we must not forget the large number of seafarers who cannot work, because no changes are being made and they are in a dire economic situation. For this population, unfortunately we do not have any evidence that we can present.

What does the future hold?

The honest answer is we do not know. The global situation is so fluid that safe conclusions cannot be drawn. We can only focus on some simple interventions to support seafarers, who may be in poor mental condition at this time:

  • Ability of providing support in case of need.
  • Ability to monitor by the captain of the mental health and condition of the crew.
  • Need to inform families about the whole development and provide guidelines for their communication with their seafarers onboard.
  • Frequent newsfeed by the company about relative developments to control, as far as possible, fake news, which can create huge problems.

Allow me to answer to the cynics, by saying that clearly all the above will not solve the problem, because the problem is transnational. So, since this situation is not under our control, we must see what we can do to improve it as far as possible. These interventions we have seen in practice on a number of seafarers that we have supported that are quite effective.

Currently, it is everyone’s duty to help. In the context of social corporate responsibility, Filistos ASCOT has created material, print and video, which we distribute, free of charge, to support seafarers and their families. You can contact us to send you the material electronically, at no charge. This is a major crisis for the industry, and it is our firm belief that we all need to cooperate to help our seafarers as much and as effectively as possible.

See the Greek version of this article at https://www.isalos.net/2020/06/covid-19-oi-synepeies-stin-psychologiki-katastasi-ton-naftikon/

 

Intertanko Announcement

We, Filistos ASCOT’s , are pleased to receive recognition  for our contribution to the Mental Health, Resilience and Wellbeing of seafarers, by the industry bodies.   We are excited to announce that we have been accepted as an Associate Member of INTERTANKO (International Association of Independent Tanker Owners), the voice of independent tanker owners worldwide. Its network consists of over 400 both full and associate members, controlling more than 4.000 tanker vessels. Being a part of INTERTANKO will allow us to improve our services for the benefit of all our partners.

Filistos ASCOT, since 2006, is one of the leading providers for Assessment, Consulting and Training not only on seafarers, shore personnel, but also, employees from other industries. We always strive to provide, high quality assessments and soft-skills trainings. ASCOT’s ACT online platform for the assessment and for the upcoming e-learning courses about soft skills and resilience. Our workshops, with more than 25 titles. CASE Application for Mental Health first Aid and SupportIn Application for self-help interventions. All these make us indeed the trusted partner for safety, retention and development. Our continuous efforts to offer services which are needed by you, our partners, is hardwired into our philosophy. Our promise to you is that we will continue to evolve and allow you to pro-actively identify areas where your operations can further improve.

SupportIn

Do you want to support the people in your organization simple and affectively?

ASCOT Consulting has the solution for providing Support INstantly. SupportIN is the new innovative application for self-evaluation and automated assistance on common psychological and social issues.

Contacts us to schedule a demo.

Click here to get the brochure, or alternatively, click here to browse the brochure on-line.

Mental Health First Aid Interventions onboard easy and affectively

Seafarer’s Mental Health is of paramount importance. The trainings and workshops about mental health awareness, although extremely important, are inadequate to assist them to identify and formulate interventions to assist a person onboard with mental health problem. That is precisely what CASE Application, developed by ASCOT is about. An android application that can assist the master, or any other officer, to properly and simply evaluate a crew member that presents signs of 10 mental problems derived by the literature and 65.000 assessed seafarers by ASCOT over the years. CASE provides a rudimentary diagnosis, but most importantly First- Aid Interventions that are clear, simple and applicable to maritime, immediately and without the need of an internet connection.

Anxiety Interventions for Seafarers

When this whole situation with COVID-19 began, a joke circulating on social media was that “We live the questions on the 2150 history examinations”. It seems that this statement has some truth in it after all. The cancellation of all seafarer’s changes by 15 April (?),  blockades and restrictions on ports and the need for mariners to continue carrying  out their work effectively and safely, creates enormous psychological pressure.

Recently reading an article by a captain describing the whole situation and the pressure his crew and himself are feeling, I looked at the comments of other readers, including some sailors,  as they claimed. Most were supportive, others’ comments were like “You make so much money so don’t complain”. Although I am not a seafarer these comments only frustration, disappointment and anger can create to any person who realizes that 80% of the commerce it is done through maritime. Nevertheless the purpose of this article I would like it to be more practical. During a number of communications that I had over the past few days with seafarers onboard for support, I realized that the levels of anxiety are quite high.  So what I would like to address, what is stress, what is anxiety and provide some simple and practical suggestions about how to manage it, while onboard.

First, we need separate stress from anxiety. Stress is the term we use to describe the normal emotion that someone experiences when facing any threat, danger or psychological pressure. Stress is something constructive that allows us to stay safe, being cautious and evolve.

Anxiety,  on the other hand, is the persistent feelings of high degree of anxiety, excessive discomfort and tension. A person has a problem with anxiety if his level is so high that it interferes with his daily life and does not allow him to do the things he wants or has to do. In short, stress is good and anxiety is bad. Stress is productive and anxiety is the problem that drains our energy and does not allow us to relax.

There are many symptoms associated with anxiety. The most common are:

  • The person worries all the time
  • Lack of trust and suspicion
  • He always wants to discuss his concerns without the desire to try to find a solution.
  • He feels his mind is running.
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Lack of concentration
  • Confusion
  • Feelings of guilt

It can also present a variety of other “anxious” worries and behaviors that are usually easily perceived when you speak or observe the person.

But what can we do when we or another colleague of ours finds that we or another colleague is under intense stress?

There are many techniques that can help us reduce anxiety, however, we cannot and should not implement some at least without guidance and supervision. For example, I see several guides that mentioning that breathing exercises can calm us down. That is right, but if we do not do it right, it can increase our anxiety and cause even panic attacks. So if we have not done this procedure before, it is best to avoid it!

So what can we do? The secret in this case is to implement simple  solutions that can be highly effective.

  1. Talk to your family, friends onboard and onshore. English translation. Not about the virus or the situation, but about other issues. Try to confirm to yourself and others that life goes on, even under these extraordinary situations. That does not mean you are going to pretend the current situation does not exist, but do not just talk about it!
  2. Do things that can distract you and help you take your mind of. Listen to music, watch a movie, read or anything that might make you enjoy your free time.
  3. Even half an hour of exercise can relax you and reduce stress levels.
  4. Evaluate what you can control and what is not. Most of the time what makes us nervous is “the need to control our environment”. But that is not always possible and the current situation confirms exactly that. Yes it is a difficult situation but for the most part is beyond our control, so you better focus on what you can influence and change.

One important thing to remember when someone experiences intense anxiety you should not approach him when they are in that state! Someone who is very anxious or panicking is in a battle mode. He feels threatened by something, unable to comprehend what, so he perceives as a threat everyone around.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, these are extraordinary situations and probably many things will be different in our daily lives even after the end of the pandemic. That is the reason why there is no protocol about what we should and should not do. All we can do is combine our knowledge of different situations, evaluate the outcome and when the need arises to adapt. We should have no doubt that in the end we will succeed, however difficult this may seem now.

To surviving is a need, thriving is a necessity.

See the Greek version of this article at www.isalos.net

 

Tips for parents during corona-virus isolation days

These days the pressure that parents feel for their children is quite high. ASCOT Consulting feeling the responsibility during this period for supporting the employees and organizations, has worked together with the psychologist Mrs Angelina Pitaoulis and we produced a brochure specifically designed for the parents. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Mrs Pitaoulis. This brochure like the one about “Working from Home” is offered to everyone for free on this link.

Alternatively, click here to browse the brochure on-line.

Surviving is a need. Thriving is a necessity.

Taking assessment on the next level

Psychometric tests are not only about evaluating mental status, personality and/or ability. They are also, about providing targeted solutions for improving performance, safety and ultimately retention.
That is exactly the scope of ASCOT’s new major update.

Just by clicking on ACTION button next to a yellow or red factor a new window will emerge with description, suggestions and proposed solutions.

You can see this brief demonstration video for more information.

A Happy Ship is a Safe Ship

This is a concept that it is argued on all training and support actions for seafarers by companies and organizations worldwide. This concept is absolutely correct; there is no dispute about that!

Since 2009, when I delivered my first training for seafarers about “Mental Health Awareness” until today, I strongly believe that a seafarer who is resilient, aware and healthy, physically and mentally, performs better, is safer and is much more loyal to the organization.

However, there is a very important factor that we seem to have neglected: the families. For every employee it is argued that their network consists of coworkers and a social network, mainly family. Based on that, it seems that we are overlooking maybe the most important part on a seafarer’s life.

Admittedly, in the past companies have offered significant health and support benefits to their seafarer’s families and at great expense as well. Even though, there is no statistical evidence about the effect of this, empirically, it seems that it gives the seafarer and their family peace of mind and this increases retention significantly.

So, it makes sense to argue that “A happy family makes the safe and well-performing seafarer.” Is that enough though? Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to speak with spouses of seafarers from many nationalities and ranks. My impression is “NO.” Let me be clear, I am not saying that these benefits are not important. They are very important! But they are simply not enough in some respects.

We neglect the stress and the burden a spouse experiences while their partner is onboard. We often mention how social media, if not used correctly, can affect the seafarer’s mental status, but we have not considered how we can assist the most significant source, the families, in avoiding these mistakes. Most organizations are providing, at considerable expense, the means for better and more direct communication, between seafarers and their family, but with no support, guidance or help to make this communication work for the benefit of all parties involved, including the company.

When I did my military service, I was a psychologist stationed abroad. Although, the camp provided modern services that made communication with our families easier and more direct, sometimes instead of helping and making us happier it had the opposite effect. Simple arguments and misunderstandings tended to be exaggerated by many soldiers, leading to stress and in some cases severe reactions like panic attacks and depression. In a couple of cases it caused suicidal thoughts as well. A significant factor that caused these symptoms and thoughts was that we were away, and as a result handling some information was extremely difficult.

My interaction with seafarers has shown me that they can present, and in some cases have presented, the same reactions for exactly the same reason. After a difficult day a heated or indifferent discussion because, for example, their spouse is tired can start a chain of thoughts that can lead them to very dark places. We need to acknowledge that the pressure upon the spouses is significant. It is not more or less than the pressure a seafarer experiences, it is just different.

Briefly, the spouse has to deal with the worry of the safe return of the seafarer as well as the everyday problems and issues that arise while the seafarer is away. Another important issue that we tend to overlook is that the spouse feels that they must assist the seafarer to readjust to the family’s everyday life upon their return. This is a great cause of pressure for some spouses. These issues are not as simple as they sound, and they are certainly not insignificant, since they cause a great deal of stress and pressure.

Training spouses, briefly but practically, on the following topics is beneficial:

• The reality of the maritime profession
• Acknowledging spouses’ difficulties
• Communication skills
• Social media
• Stress management and resilience
• Problem-solving
• Conflict resolution

Also, providing simple and practical advice can assist the family to function better. Consequently, the seafarer has greater peace of mind. Furthermore, it can play a paramount role on helping the seafarer perform better and remain in the profession longer without worrying about their family’s well-being.

All this might seem theoretical, but in reality, it is not. When interviewing seafarers about their concerns, family is one of the top three on their list, if not number one.

Currently, we are focusing so much on their technical, soft-skills, mental health and other training for good reason but, we neglect the family. A more holistic approach can definitely play a significant role in performance, safety and retention.

“A happy ship is a safe ship” indeed.

But: “A happy family makes a happy seafarer.”

Dimitrios Lyrakos is Chief Executive Officer of ASCOT Consulting LTD.

This article was originally posted on www.maritime-executive.com