Seafarers Suicide Rate

Hello All,

Would like to get everyone’s take on the increase in seafarers suicide rates across all seafaring industries and nationalities. What do you think is a way forward to propose changes to the industry to help mental health onboard and when at home for all seafarers.
Currently I am part of an industry roundtable that is trying to address this situation, last 5 years, almost a 500% increase in suicides.
We understand that with the increase in information and internet onboard this cause people to receive news (bad and good) when it happens. But, we as an industry can not go backwards, we can not limit connectivity onboard. So, how do we help this situation? Do we need to increase training to try and identify problems onboard when they happen, do we design more health programs for companies to utilize onboard? What about the Inland crews, suicide typically happens 24 hours prior to starting ones hitch and or 48 hours from getting off of their vessel and home. G-Captain is a springboard for us to collaborate and try to help each other and the industry. Industry needs your help, we need to work together to figure out solutions.

How much consideration to diet & nutrition has been given this
problem ? Also the consumption of beverages and foods containing large amounts of High Fructose Corn Sweeteners, Sugar, Aspartame sweeteners, Caffeine, and Salt to mention a few other agents which can contribute to depression or other mental health issues ? These agents are believed to erode the Serotonin n the blood stream.
(a neurotransmitter in the blood that relates to feelings of happiness in adequate levels or in low levels lead to depression, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia etc). There is just a lot of High Fructose Corn Sweeteners used in the food supply today and Soft Drinks aren’t the only culprits to blame…

Dietician’s often point to the condition of the bacterial flora in the colon having a bearing on getting quality sleep. Those who are already edging into depression will likely suffer an accumulative effect as sleep deprivation relates to depression. For younger inexperienced men this may be beyond their grasp thus not understand whats happening to them. and just internalize the problem as being something about their own inadequacies. Magnesium, Calcium, and Zinc in tablet form may
help with sleep but there are several forms of insomnia owing to different reasons.

It may be worth some study of the GI tract and how it is connected to the brain via the Vegas Nerve. You may begin to see the gut as if it is the second brain. So often you hear that a good cook is the morale
of the crew. A knowledgeable and capable cook may be a “part” of the solution to this issue.

I haven’t seen an age cited if there is an average.

I haven’t encountered any suicides in this industry. The suicides I have known seem to have patterns though. Among school aged boys it seems to be related to heartbreak and anger. Among land-based crews that work in camps it seems to be related to drugs and difference between camp culture and home-life. Perhaps if the reasons for seafarers’ suicides were listed out, a pattern might be seen.

Sometimes it is very difficult also to know whether it was suicide. Someone whom is lost at sea, and does not leave a note, is assumed to have fallen overboard, when in fact, alot of times it is suicide. But it can not be reported as such, because an investigation does not find anything.
Very interesting about one’s diet. I do agree, what we eat and how we are fed definitely play a role in our mental state.

Seafarers well being is constantly being studied by the Seafarers International Research Centre in Cardiff.

Have a look through the papers.

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Thank you. Currently myself and others are working with the Seaman’s Church Institute on this.

I think to some extent with greater automation along with smaller crews there is less communality. Gone are the shared movie nights and fewer ship barbeque events. People do their time and head off to their respective rooms. This sort of behavior can’t be conducive to good mental health. Along with this is are the shorter port stays and inability to get off to blow off steam.


Off the Deep End: A History of Madness at Sea By Nic Compton is a good read on the subject.

But I think it’s silly to ask us- relatively well paid first world sailors, we’ve got it good. I would go to the country that supplies most of the worlds sailors, who work and are exploited for almost nothing and have contracts that seemingly never end, to look for answers.
Of course there are common reasons for us all at times, too. An adulterer life partner at home or a death in family, when you are thousands of miles away and disconnected is a common one. Some shit is just harder to deal with out there and not everyone is that strong. Coupled with aforementioned loneliness onboard and lack of commaradery, it’s pretty simple to understand.


I agree, that cultural circumstances play a role. However, the US Inland Waterways have seen the same increase in suicide rate as bluewater.

If you haven’t read thru this thread already it may provide some insights
as to the food or perception of it by a cross section of crews when working.

Cooking while at sea

Consider the attention the Dietitians and Nutritionist pay to the feeding of the Astronauts when stationed in space for given lengths of time. Then look at the crews aboard ships. What is a good cook ? Someone who can make Paula Dean “yummies” that aren’t necessarily healthy food, (ie greasy foods laden with sugar, fat, and salt) or a cook who understands what constitutes healthy nutrition and what goes on as it passes thru the body so that those he or she feeds can be at their best each day while aboard.

There are other considerations beyond this too. Those who are heavy consumers of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, etc may be even more vulnerable. We all enter life with a genetic endowment and medical science is discovering more and more links where people can be predisposed to numerous forms of health issues and where certain things we consume may accelerate those situations. But most cooks can still provide healthy nutritious diets for their family or crew with just some reading & learning.

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First thing is rather then the percent increase a better statistic would be seafarers suicide rate as compared to the general population.


That would be useful.

Suicide is sexist. Damn male privilege.

  • The 2017 age-adjusted suicide rate is 14.0 per 100,000 individuals.
  • The rate of suicide is highest in middle age — white men in particular.
  • In 2017, men died by suicide 3.54x more often than women.
  • White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016.

I was on a ship were a sailor, let’s say, disappeared during the night. Slippers at the railing but no note which I understand is something what they usually leave behind. We backtracked and searched until dark, send an emergency message but to no avail.

I must add that the CEO of the company was on the Board of Corrections which was a rather strange position for someone in the maritime industry but we soon found out why this in fact was a clever move because we suddenly got jail birds on board who got shortened sentences if prepared to sail on a ship. Most were okay but we had some nasty figures among them. I will spare you the details…

There had been and still were tensions and fights going on In especially the deck department. We suspected that this was not a common suicide and that the slippers were put there intentionally as some kind of proof. This was reported to the company but they saw no reason to bring this to the attention of the Justice Department, probably because of the expected delays that this would cause.

Many of the bodies recovered have the fly unzipped. Pissing over the rail is dangerous.

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Suicide at sea is not limited to seafarers. Cruise ships is prone to this happening:

Actually the predominant suicides on the cruise ships are actually Hotel staff, not the licensed crew.

We had a rash of boys shoot and hang themselves in my region in the 90s and 00s. Tore the hearts out of everyone. My home-town hasn’t healed yet. The statistic that I’m really curious about is the benzodiazepine rate vs. non-user rate and the young benzo user’s rate vs. non-user rate. I think that would be an interesting number.

I was just talking to someone who has studied this in the inland industry. The belief seems to be that the ability to connect to the outside world electronically while being restricted from connecting on a human level is a significant issue that combined with the constant transition from home to vessel to home to vessel contributes to a feeling of alone The lack of “community” on the boats, hazing, the inability to get ashore even for just a couple hours, and crew fatigue are seemingly also contributing factors.

and no pissups on board, I notice that reduces cabin fever very well
I wonder how the stats add up with each nationality?