Project backed by MNWB for fishermen’s wellbeing shortlisted for award

A project supported by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board, which offers a free 24/7 confidential text service to support fishermen, has been shortlisted for an award.

The Fishermen’s Mission and the Seafarers Hospital Society – both of whom are constituent organisations of MNWB – are delighted that their latest SeaFit project has been shortlisted in the ‘Innovation of the Year’ category (a new category) for this year’s Fishing News Awards. The category recognises an innovation that has brought demonstrable benefit to the industry.

Fishermen are often disadvantaged in accessing health services, tides, weather, and fish locations mean that they can’t plan for time off. This makes it difficult to pre-book and keep appointments, resulting in a loss of earnings if having to attend appointments during favourable fishing conditions. There are also more financial worries, and fears that increased regulations may force fishermen to quit the industry.

All of which can have a negative impact on mental health and place greater strain on relationships. However, mental health issues, anxieties and depression are often hidden. Many tell us they were afraid to talk about their problems for fear of being seen as weak, being laughed at, or worried that they would be thought of as a risk to go to sea.

SeaFit Manager Carol Elliott said:

“The SeaFit Shout project has enabled us to connect fishermen to free, 24/7, confidential support throughout mainland UK. In the first few weeks of the service starting 12 contacts were made and support was given around suicide, relationships, stress and isolation.”

The success of SeaFit has been the ability to work in partnership and on the Shout project we are supported by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board and the Mental Health Innovations charity.

Stuart Rivers, Chief Executive of the Merchant Navy Welfare Board which is the umbrella charity for the Merchant Navy and UK Fishing Fleets, said:

“Fishing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and if fishermen aren’t catching fish, they aren’t earning money and therefore unable to provide food for their families.

“This is why a text service, like this, is imperative to offering critical support to fishermen in need. It’s been hugely successful since launching and we are delighted to have funded it. It’s great to see this project get the recognition it deserves.”

Emma Wilson, Senior Marketing and Partnerships Manager at Mental Health Innovations, which powers Shout, said:

“We’re delighted that our keyword partnership with SeaFit has been shortlisted for ‘Innovation of the Year’ at this year’s Fishing News Awards. By texting the word ‘FISH’ to 85258, UK fishermen have been able to access free, confidential, 24/7 and anonymous digital support and have a conversation with a trained and empathetic Shout Volunteer whenever they need to. Many people who have texted Shout have never asked for help elsewhere, so we’re delighted our text service has been able to break down barriers for fishermen wanting to start a conversation about their mental health.”

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.

Carol added: “I am honoured that our project has been shortlisted for the Fishing News Innovation of the Year award. It is so important to keep talking about mental health and to be able to provide free confidential support at a time convenient to the fishermen. We all need to keep talking to reduce the stigma around asking for help, having lost a friend to suicide recently, this project is very close to my heart.”