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Mental Health in the Maritime Sector

Six years ago, there was a noticeable gap in psychological support services within the maritime industry.

Charles Watkins, a clinical psychologist, and licensed psychotherapist, was among the first in the sector to recognize this gap. In response, he founded Mental Health Support Solutions, also known as MHSS. His vision was to establish a comprehensive service to address crises at sea and prevent mental health issues among crew and office personnel.

This initiative began in 2018. Now, six years later, MHSS has emerged as one of the leading psychological support providers in the maritime sector. The company currently serves over 7000 vessels worldwide, including commercial ships, cruise liners, and yachts.

In recent years, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in requests for mental health support for crew members. This period marked a turning point for the industry, prompting a recognition of the urgent need for regulatory changes in health and safety protocols. MHSS has been actively involved in supporting these changes.

The MHSS team comprises over 80 clinical psychologists, all holding a minimum of a master’s degree in clinical psychology and receiving additional training in Maritime Psychology. Their services are available in over 50 languages, ensuring accessibility to support in one’s native language.

At the heart of the company’s services is a 24/7 helpline, accessible to crew and office staff via freephone, WhatsApp, and text messages, without the need for prior appointments. Additionally, the company offers both in-person and online training courses and seminars covering various aspects of wellbeing for teams worldwide.

Furthermore, Charles and his team provide in-person crisis interventions following serious accidents onboard vessels. The process is straightforward: MHSS psychologists board the ship after an incident to stabilize the crew and ensure everyone’s safety to proceed with their duties.

Mental Health Support Solutions firmly believes that physical and psychological health are interconnected, underscoring the importance of addressing both to foster a safe and healthy work environment onboard and ashore.

The team urges all shipowners and managers to recognize the impact of poor mental health on their employees and performance. Drawing from extensive experience, they emphasize that factors such as lack of sleep, isolation, fatigue, and challenging physical environments increase the risk of incidents and accidents at sea.

“It is our collective responsibility to care for the people in this industry and to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for both seafarers and office personnel if we are to prevent accidents and promote the thriving of our industry.”
Charles Watkins, Founder and CEO of MHSS

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