Professor Neil Greenberg was in the Philippines this week, as part of an expert panel discussion on the subject of promoting safe shipping at sea.
The discussion was part of the Asia-Pacific Manning and Training Conference, held in Manila on 29 and 30 October 2013.
Professor Greenberg, academic, occupational and forensic psychiatrist and leading PTSD expert, spoke about methods and best practices to encourage a safety culture within shipping beyond mere compliance.
Using his vast experience in military and occupational mental health he talked about the impact of traumatic stress on shipping companies and also how psychological resilience training and education can help improve safety and employee wellbeing, including psychological monitoring options for employees in remote and difficult locations.
Professor Greenberg, who also runs psychological resilience consultancy, March on Stress, said: “Equipping mariners with the right psychologically focused skills and regular psychological monitoring can be effective methods of improving psychological resilience, detecting problems at an early stage, ensuring timely support and where necessary signposting to evidence based medical interventions.”
Professor Greenberg also spoke of peer-support systems, used extensively in both a military setting and by commercial organisations who typically place their employees ‘in harm’s way’, including in the maritime sector. He likened maritime contractors who spend vast periods of time away from the surrounds of home and family life to that of Armed Forces personnel.
He continued: “This type of working environment is where peer support systems can be particularly beneficial, where close-knit teams form in the confines of their shared experiences of being away from friends and family for long periods.
“And, while traumatic incidents such as serious fires, explosions and injuries are not commonplace at sea, nor can they be totally avoided. Over recent years threats such as kidnapping and terrorism or other hostilities have also emerged.
“Whilst only a minority of individuals who are exposed to traumatic incidents are likely to develop mental health problems, there is now an abundance of evidence which suggests that many people who do not become clinically “ill” do suffer with sufficient post incident mental health symptoms that their ability to function in the workplace is substantially impaired. Therefore, within safety critical environments, even relatively low levels of post traumatic symptoms are important to detect and manage.
Training staff to recognise symptoms of psychological distress, and for changes in behaviour in one another, is a proven effective method to detect signs of mental illness, often before it escalates into more significant mental health problems, including but not only PTSD.”
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