Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS) has signed up to BIMCO’s Gulf of Guinea Declaration in a bid to suppress piracy in West African waters and to assist seafarers caught in pirate attacks.

The company, which provides professional mental health support and guidance across the maritime sector, is one of 120+ businesses, organisations and flag states to sign the declaration since its launch in May 2021.

Introduced by BIMCO, the Gulf of Guinea Declaration calls for states around the globe to assist in cutting the number of pirate attacks by at least 80 percent by 2023. The Gulf of Guinea accounted for 95 percent of all seafarers (135) kidnapped from ships by pirates in 2020.

Christian Ayerst, ceo of MHSS, said signing the declaration was a commitment to helping crewmembers suffering from stress, anxiety and other mental health conditions following a pirate attack.

“It’s so important that the people at the centre of these terrible events are properly cared for by professionals as well as their friends and families. MHSS will do anything it can to support anyone affected by piracy at sea,” he said.

He added that MHSS is launching a rapid response programme to support shipping companies and individuals affected by piracy. “We’ll reach out to organisations impacted by these challenges… After introducing ourselves, we’ll invite them for a free call to discuss what they’ve gone through, talk about the after-effects they may experience and provide high-level guidance on the measures they can take to deal with any psychological issues,” he explained.

Piracy can have a severe impact on seafarers’ mental health both during and after the ordeal, according to Charles Watkins, managing director and clinical psychologist at MHSS.

“The plundering, hijacking or detention of a ship always has a devastating and lasting impression on all the people involved,” he said. “Kidnapped crew returning safely are often in need of psychological first aid, but the crew left behind on the vessel must be given the same level of care.”