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The Rotary Club of Melbourne South
has joined four Melbourne maritime-
related organisations to provide
seafarers with information on
depression with the goal of improving
the mental health of the 30,000
seafarers on more than 2,000 ships
docking in Port Melbourne each year.
The others are the Melbourne Port
Welfare Association, Beyondblue, the
National Depression Initiative, The Mission
To Seafarers Victoria, an Anglican church
initiative, and the Stella Maris Seafarers'
Centre, a Catholic church initiative.
Titled, "The Mental Health of
Seafarers", the project will provide
Masters, other ship's officers and crew
members with printed information in
booklets and leaflets about the mental
illness of depression so seafarers who are
depressed may be identified and helped.
Following a search in 2008 by the
Rotary Club of Melbourne South for
information confirming that seafarers are
more likely to suffer from mental illness
than their land-based counterparts, the five
organisations met in February and March
2009 and agreed to undertake the project.
The project was informally launched on
December 23, 2009 when the first booklets
in English on depression were presented to
officers on the 'Aphrodite Leader', a huge
car carrier, and on the 'MSC Firenze', a
large container carrier. A formal launch will
occur in mid-February.
Seafarers experience times of loneliness
and separation from their families and
support networks due to the nature of
their work. The fast turn-around times of
modern ships can result in limited
opportunities for shore leave by seafarers.
There may be cultural differences on ships
with multi-national crews and mental
illnesses like depression are not openly
discussed. The present economic
downturn in worldwide shipping can
result in seafarers being stressed because of
losing their jobs.
Booklets and leaflets in English,
Chinese and Russian will have hotline
telephone numbers that can be called for
help in emergencies "24/7" anywhere in
Australia. They will cater to more than 85
percent of seafarers visiting Melbourne.
Beyondblue has information on
depression in 26 different languages and
has provided the information in the
booklets and leaflets. They cover
understanding depression, contain a
checklist to help determine if someone
appears depressed, guidance on how a
depressed person can be helped and hints
for reducing stress.
Both seafarer centres have professional
ship visitors that will distribute the
printed material during their visits to
ships to meet and help seafarers seeking
assistance and in carrying out the pastoral
duties of the two seafarer centres.
The project will also provide booklets
and leaflets to Mission To Seafarers centres
in the Victorian ports of Geelong,
Hastings and Portland, where large
merchant ships berth each year -- with
another 7,000 seafarers served.
A detailed business and operational
plan for the project has been prepared
and a Memorandum of Understanding
setting forth their roles and
responsibilities has been signed by the
five participating organisations.
The Rotary Club of Melbourne South
and Rotary District 9800 (71 clubs in and
around Melbourne) have allocated
$13,500 to cover printing costs for the
first year of the project, and the Port of
Melbourne Corporation has pledged
$1,500 for the project. The Rotary Club of
Melbourne South has provided a project
manager -- Bob Iversen -- who is a retired
fishery biologist and former member of
the United States Navy.
For further information contact:
Rotary joins four maritime organisations to fight depression
Capt. David Christopher-Moeller (right) of the
container ship 'MSC Firenze' receives the first
booklet on depression in English from ship
visitor Bob Grech of the Stella Maris Seafarers'
Centre in Melbourne
Photo by Rotary Club of Melbourne South
AUSMARINE February 2010 13
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