Understanding seafarer suicide and under-reporting

July 12, 2022
Robin Colonas 5 Cropped
© Robin Colonas

A new report released today by the UK government discusses the mental health of seafarers and the impacts of suicide, the support available and the potential under-reporting of suicides in the sector in 2022.

A wide range of industry experts was interviewed for the report, Understanding seafarer suicide and under-reporting, which was commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). The research aimed to provide a detailed view of the mental health challenges faced by seafarers, uncover the types of support available to seafarers struggling with mental health issues, and highlight potential issues with the under-reporting of suicides among seafarers. The findings will help fill gaps in knowledge on this important issue and feed into discussions about the mandatory recording of suicide at sea.

Robert Courts MP, Minister for Aviation, Maritime & Security, said:

'Despite evidence that mental health and seafarer suicide are serious issues in maritime, the data is patchy. Historically, there hasn’t been a single agreed international framework for recording suicides at sea, which has led many to believe that suicides remain underreported. The level of mental health support varies depending on the employer and there is a cultural challenge across the industry in destigmatising mental health. This report is the first step for long overdue change. It has been used to advocate, at the International Labour Organisation, for an international database to record manner and cause of any crew deaths at sea. This is a step towards better understanding of the scale of the problem, which will ultimately allow government and industry to create meaningful change.'

Alongside the report, the MCA has also launched its new Wellbeing at Sea Tool that provides practical advice for seafarers and helps organisations monitor wellbeing and support their employees.

When a seafarer uses the tool, they are asked to take a digital survey. Once completed, the seafarer is given personalised advice on how to improve their wellbeing at sea. Data captured is anonymised and sent to managers within the company to help them better understand what the priorities are for improvement.

Katy Ware, Director of UK Maritime Services said:

'There is – sadly – still a stigma around mental health. The fact seafarers still don’t feel able to talk about it or access services says a lot about how far we still have to go in terms of reducing that taboo. This is exactly why we have launched our Wellbeing at Sea Tool. By identifying stressors and issues at an early stage, we hope that the tool will help to reduce stress among seafarers which is a contributory factor to mental health problems.'

Understanding seafarer suicide and its potential under-reporting can be downloaded here. The Wellbeing at Sea Tool is available at

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