SEAFIT and SHOUT a new 24/7 confidential text service for fishermen
Given the constant pressures faced by fishermen, they are often disadvantaged in accessing health services due to irregular, transient nature of their work. Tides, weather, and fish locations mean that fishermen can’t plan time off. This makes it difficult to pre-book and keep appointments, and they often suffer a loss of earnings if having to attend appointments during favourable fishing conditions.
It is not just physical health problems; mental health issues, anxieties and depression are often not addressed, or spoken about for fear of being seen as weak. Financial worries, the cost-of-living crisis, increased regulations, restaurants closing, environmental pressures and market demand, all undoubtedly lead to an increase in anxiety, stress, and greater strain on relationships for fishermen and their families.
Those that lose colleagues, friends and family in fatal accidents at sea can have profound long-term effects on entire fishing communities, as well as families. Seafarers UK, 2018 Fishing for a Future report highlighted evidence of mental health issues and depression experienced by fishermen, with over 95% of respondents indicating they regularly suffered from stress.
SeaFit Programme Manager Carol Elliott said:
“We have wonderful counsellors specialising in supporting fishermen, Fairwinds in Cornwall and Fishwell in Norfolk and Suffolk, but we also needed to find a way of reaching other areas. SHOUT enables us to provide 24/7 free support using a confidential, service, although some mobile networks may charge for texts.”
Shout is powered by Mental Health Innovations, a charity using pioneering technology to improve the mental health of the UK population, with the support of the Royal Foundation of The Prince and Princess of Wales.
Emma Wilson, Marketing and Partnerships Manager at Mental Health Innovations, said:
“Shout is the UK’s only free, 24/7 text support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. We have taken 1.6 million conversations with people who have needed support due to feeling anxious, stressed or suicidal. Thanks to more than 2,000 amazing volunteers who freely give their time to support those in distress, our service is able to run 24/7 and is open when other services aren’t available. Most of those who contact us feel they have no one else to turn to and Shout is a lifeline for them in their moment of need. We’re extremely pleased to be partnering with SeaFit to ensure that fishermen, who find many traditional health services inaccessible, will know about our anonymous and non-judgemental support.”
Carol goes on to say “we are delighted to be working in partnership and to have been supported by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board.”
Sharon Coveney, Deputy Chief Executive at the Merchant Navy Welfare Board which is the umbrella charity for UK Merchant Navy and fishing fleets, said:
“Commercial fishing can be a dangerous industry at the best of times. Fishermen have long and anti-social working hours and constantly face financial pressures which can affect their mental health. With that in mind, we are delighted to support this project to provide a much-needed service to active and retired fishermen who may be experiencing mental health challenges.
“The SeaFit programme has proven hugely successful, and Shout will continue to make a difference by empowering fishermen with support and techniques to improve their wellbeing.”
The Fishermen’s Mission port staff also plays a crucial role in supporting active and retired fishermen and their families. Mental anxiety and depression can have huge ramifications on their livelihoods upon which the Fishermen’s Mission can offer financial, practical and pastoral support.
If a fisherman is feeling anxious, stressed or depressed they can text the word ‘FISH’ to 85258 for free, confidential support, at any time of day or night. After receiving four automated messages they will be connected with a trained Shout Volunteer, who will listen without judgement to whatever is troubling them.