Samaritans Emerge as a Survival Suit for Seafarers
New Bedford is witness to the fact that the seafaring industries are dangerous, rugged, isolating and full of uncertainty. As expansive as the fishing industry is, the one thing missing has always been a portal to provide help and support for the worker's mental health.
The Samaritans Southcoast, and their international partner Befrienders Worldwide, have launched a new program, Seafarers International Emotional Support Services (SIESS), designed to give the mariners and their families emotional wellbeing.
"New Bedford's port is a global hub for fishing, cargo and trade, so it makes so much sense that Samaritan's SouthCoast, becomes the U.S. headquarters for SIESS," said Samaritans Executive Director Darcy Lee.
The fishing industry has one of the highest numbers of suicides per capita than any other business.
"Seafarers are often a long way from home, lonely and depressed that they missed another birthday or family event," Lee said. "We want to make sure our services are made available, because this particular group of laborers are rugged and tough, and might not always feel comfortable reaching out asking for help."
Until now, the industries have done relatively little to support the mental health of their workforce.
"From the calls we get, more than 70 percent of the local population feel stressed, have anxiety, depression, and relationship issues. The fishing industry is part of this group of people, and we want them to know it's ok not to be ok," said Lee.
Samaritans Southcoast is fully prepared to take calls from mariners and port workers from New Bedford to Long Beach, California.
Seafarers are encouraged to visit the Befrienders Worldwide website and click on "Emotional Help for Seafarers."
Samaritans Southcoast has a phone line dedicated to receiving SIESS calls. Anyone involved in the fishing, maritime, shipping, wind or shore-side industries can call (508) 673-3720 locally or +1-508-673-3720 internationally, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time, seven days a week.
"When a mariner reaches out for help, I want them to know we are there for them," Lee said.