Fishers’ wellbeing project shortlisted for award

SeaFit, a project initiated by the Fishermen’s Mission with the Seafarers Hospital Society, has been shortlisted in the ‘Innovation of the Year’ category for this year’s Fishing News awards. The project, supported by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB), offers a free 24/7 confidential text service to support fishers.

According to MNWB, there is a lack of support for mental health services for fishers, and many have told the organisation that they don’t talk about their problems for fear of being seen as weak or laughed at. They also worry that they could be thought of as a risk to go to sea.

As reported in MIN, a study in July 2022 into the mental health of seafarers, found that suicide remains a poorly understood issue in the maritime industry, with suicide likely to be significantly under-reported. The report found that discussion of mental health at sea is still perceived as a ‘taboo’ topic among seafarers, which is limiting understanding of the issues.

Tides, weather, and fish locations mean that it is hard to plan for time off. This makes it difficult for fishers to pre-book and keep appointments, resulting in a loss of earnings if having to attend appointments during favourable fishing conditions. There are also more financial worries, and fears that increased regulations may force fishers to leave the industry, all of which have led to a negative impact on mental health.

“The SeaFit Shout project has enabled us to connect fishers to free, 24/7, confidential support throughout mainland UK. In the first few weeks of the service starting, 12 contacts were made, and support was given around suicide, relationships, stress and isolation,” says Carol Elliott, SeaFit manager.
 
Stuart Rivers, chief executive of MNWB, says: “Fishing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, and if fishermen aren’t catching fish, they aren’t earning money and therefore unable to provide food for their families.

“This is why a text service like this is imperative to offering critical support to fishermen in need. It’s been hugely successful since launching, and we are delighted to have funded it. It’s great to see this project get the recognition it deserves.”

“By texting the word FISH to 85258, UK fishermen have been able to access free, confidential, 24/7 and anonymous digital support and have a conversation with a trained and empathetic Shout Volunteer whenever they need to,” says Emma Wilson, senior marketing and partnerships manager at Mental Health Innovations, which powers Shout (the service which provides the trained volunteers on the end of the SeaFit line).

“Many people who have texted Shout have never asked for help elsewhere, so we’re delighted our text service has been able to break down barriers for fishermen wanting to start a conversation about their mental health.”

The Fishing News Awards will take place in Aberdeen on 11 May 2023.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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