iCall/Tata Institute of Social Sciences
A free psychological helpline for the worldwide maritime community
Numerous studies into the psychological health of seafarers have shown that large numbers of seafarers suffer from obvious manifestations of impaired psychological wellbeing, such as social isolation and depression. These types of problems can’t be wished away when people get off the ship too.
The International Journal of Maritime Health states that about 5.9% of all deaths at sea are proven suicides.
If the suspicious cases of probable suicides - seafarers that went missing at sea in calm weather - are considered, then this figure jumps to 18.3%, which means almost one in five deaths at sea is a suicide. By any standards, that is alarming compared to deaths ashore, where only 1% of deaths are attributable to suicides. There is no disputing that mental health at sea is a genuine concern that needs to be addressed.
After wanting to do something about the issue and thinking of various ways to do so, our Synergy Marine Group sought to create a counselling facility for any seafarer at sea (not just Synergy personnel) who needed help.
This was formalized with a partnership with Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). It was subsequently inaugurated by Dr Malini V. Shankar, India’s then Director General of Shipping, when she made the first call to the service in Sept 2018 dialling +91-967700088 from her phone.
iCALL, as this number is termed, is a free psychological helpline for the worldwide maritime community in nine different languages via phone, email, and the chat-based nULTA App, and is free of charge to maritime personnel worldwide.
iCALL, which is confidential and anonymous, is available in English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Sindhi, and Kutchi. iCALL currently has 14 counsellors, all located at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai to ensure peer support, supervision, and standard professional counselling services.
All the counsellors have a Master’s degree in Clinical or Counselling Psychology.
Prior to the launch of the service, all counsellors received three months of specialist training to help treat issues such as emotional distress, relationship and family concerns, suicidal thoughts, sexual and reproductive health, LGBT issues, violence against women, body image concerns, and work-life anxieties.
The center has begun to receive genuine calls and emails from March 2019 onwards. The touchpoints and counselling have been happening over emotional distress, economic crises, relationship issues, and career-related concerns. The call traffic on iCall is expected to pick up pace in the coming months as the information on the availability of such a service is made accessible to the global shipping community.
iCall is a partner to The Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam Foundation, a larger umbrella global body which Go2C is a part of. Given iCalls control operations currently run in India, Go2C seeks to be available to support the initiative in ways required.