Crisis at Sea – how to move on
Crises are a well-known element of the working environment at sea. Life on board entails risks and as a consequence elaborate safety plans and training exercises are often reviewed and rehearsed in order to address potential crisis situations.
People who have been involved in a traumatic event usually react to the experience and suffer some kind of crisis condition. A crisis is characterized by rapidly changing feelings, chaotic thoughts and other strong, overwhelming reactions. How to get through the crisis depends on different factors such as personality, the nature and extent of the event and the amount of support from your relatives and colleagues.
No one wants to become involved in a traumatic event. But it can happen to everyone, and when it does, it is important to know how to handle it. The Danish maritime consultancy, SEAHEALTH, has produced a guideline to ship owners, ship management and individual seafarers on how to recognize the symptoms and address the emotions in order to get through a crisis without permanent mental impairment.
The guideline is divided in to different sections. The first part takes you through the different mental stages a person can go through after a traumatic experience; from the immediate state of shock in the first hours after the incident to the repercussions in the days and weeks after. The second part consist of a brief ‘how to’ section on handling the time after the traumatic incident. Here a variety of effective measures to help the individual return to normal life are mentioned.
The guideline has been developed to call attention to the issue of crisis management. It can both be a tool for people who have experienced something traumatic themselves and therefore need help to help themselves. But it is also meant as a guide for management and relatives on how to help their employee or relative the best way on the aftermath of the crisis.
SEAHEALTH’s industrial psychologist Søren Diederichsen is the lead author of the guideline. This is how he describes its purpose:
Even though things have improved, we still see a tendency in the maritime industry that traumatic events are perceived as a ‘natural’ part of being employed at sea and working in a potentially dangerous environment.
This means, that employees often have to deal with traumatic events on their own and that no psychological debriefing, psycho education or support is initiated. This is often due to a lack of knowledge on what to do. This is why this folder is produced: To create some understanding regarding the nature of a psychological crisis and to give some advice on how to handle a crisis.
The free guideline is available on SEAHEALTH’s website: www.seahealth.dk/en
under Publications – Crisis at Sea.