The cruise ship Regal Princess docked in Rotterdam last Wednesday. On Sunday a Ukrainian woman is thought to have taken her own life by jumping overboard, Photograph: Robin Utrecht/Rex/Shutterstock
Several deaths, a hunger strike and disturbances on board cruise ships have raised fresh concern about what crew members say is the deteriorating mental health of staff stranded aboard cruise ships still floating at sea.
A worldwide standoff between cruise companies and health authorities has left approximately 100,000 crew stranded at sea. Many have spent more than a month self-isolating in cabins, unable to leave, and have lost their jobs during the pandemic.
On Sunday, a Ukrainian woman died after apparently jumping from the Regal Princess outside the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Dutch police confirmed the death of a 39-year-old woman. Princess Cruises, part of Carnival Corporation, said support was being offered to staff and the family of the deceased.
On the Navigator of the Seas off the coast of Miami, 15 Romanian crew started a hunger strike in protest at not being able to disembark. Royal Caribbean said the strike ended after a charter flight was arranged from Barbados later this month.
Many other ships remain marooned around the world. In the Philippines, Manila Bay has more than 20 cruise ships with around 5,300 staff on board waiting for clearance to disembark.
In Germany, police in the Germany port of Cuxhaven were called on board the Mein Schiff 3 last week after reports of disturbances. Nearly 3,000 crew members from several ships had been assembled onboard awaiting repatriation to numerous countries, but were told they would have to stay on the ship after nine people tested positive for Covid-19.
The deaths and conflicts have prompted renewed warnings about the mental health of crew stuck at sea waiting for permission to return home.
Cruise lines were managing to repatriate small contingents of crew members to some Caribbean countries by Tuesday, but even those efforts raised consternation in Haiti and Grenada after reports of some crew not being put into the required quarantines, according to reports in the Miami Herald.
Cruise companies have blamed strict rules from health authorities for not letting crew disembark. In and around US waters, 100 cruise ships with 70,000 crew are still waiting at sea, but the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently told the Guardian that some operators have opted to stay at sea, citing concerns about cost and potential legal consequences.
Crew members stranded at sea have said the experience has taken its toll on their mental health.
Will Lees, a Canadian who was hired to run art shows and gallery sales on the Norwegian Star starting last October, said the waiting and uncertainty have been deeply unsettling. He has not been on land since passengers left the ship on 14 March and has been shuffled between three ships to await repatriation. He was on the Norwegian Epic on Friday at dock in Miami, but has since been moved to a new ship that is now sailing him to Europe. From there he has been told he will be flown back to Canada.
Each day you have no real purpose. Its the same as the day before, he said in a WhatsApp message sent from the middle of the Atlantic, somewhere near the Bermuda triangle. You feel like youre giving up your life and doing the same thing over and over again. Its depressing.
In response to concerns about the mental health of staff, Royal Caribbean said: The health and safety of our crew is our top priority and we are working around the clock to make sure they get home safely. We have an employee assistance programme that crew are able to call 24 hours a day and is fully confidential.
Carnival Corporation said: We provide all employees complimentary access to our employee assistance programme (EAP), which includes a variety of services, and credentialed counsellors. In addition, our onboard medical team is trained to identify guests and crew who might need additional resources and support.
Tui said it has since been able to send 1,200 crew on the Mein Schiff 3 home on charter flights carrying only workers who have tested negative.
TUI Cruises was and is in daily contact with the ships management. We are aware of the tense situation of some crew members who had been waiting for their return journey for a long time and we try to support the crew in all matters in this uncertain situation.
The ships management informs the crew on a regular basis: up-to-date information on the situation is communicated by the captain via shipboard announcements and is displayed on all screens on board for reading. In order to address and support the crew in this exceptional situation, TUI Cruises has among other things also initiated assistance in the field of maritime psychosocial emergency care for the crew on board as well as for the ones isolated on land.
Prof Ann Kring, who chairs the psychology department at the University of California, Berkeley, said the long-running uncertainty and lack of control facing crews stranded on ships presents the sort of horrific situation that could cause anxiety in anyone.
They are stuck, they have no information, they dont know whether the person in the next room is sick or whether they will get sick or whether they ever get home, she said, noting that crew members may also face loss of jobs and uncertain financial futures. The limbo that they are in is not only anxiety-producing, it could be traumatic in the long term.
She said getting people off the ships, so they could get the fresh air, exercise and healthy food recommended for everyone in isolation, would be a good start to helping them cope with the situation.
Its taking way too long, she said.
Royal Caribbean also confirmed the death of a crew member on the Mariner of the Seas, currently stationed near the Bahamas, but said the death appeared to be from natural causes.
It said it had planned to have many crew members heading home last week, but its efforts were delayed by external restrictions.
We had multiple charters ready for crew. However, due to external restrictions, crew members were not permitted to leave the ship and also could not take commercial flights, a spokesperson said, adding that the company was working around the clock to get crew home.
Krista Thomas, a former cruise ship employee, has been running a Facebook group to update hundreds of crew members at sea about how to get home. Many have expressed concerns about their mental health.
If they have a window to look out of, theyre looking out at this dark ocean wondering when theyll see land, when theyll go home, how their family is doing, if theyll be able to provide for them, she said.
When youre sitting in a room with nothing to go to and no one to talk to, disconnected from your family, then it only takes something small to spiral.
- This town of 170,000 replaced some cops with medics and mental health workers. It's worked for over 30 years - CNN - July 5th, 2020
- Donnelly: Progress on horizon for mental health - The Columbian - July 5th, 2020
- Mental health strain on firefighters must not be swept under the rug - Las Vegas Sun - July 5th, 2020
- People in mental health crises need help, not handcuffs - STAT - STAT - July 5th, 2020
- Mental health myth: Mental illness is the same for people of all races - BlueRidgeNow.com - July 5th, 2020
- Pandemic mental health: the urgency of self-care - The European Sting - July 5th, 2020
- JOHN ROSEMOND: Is there a child/teen mental health crisis? - Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal - July 5th, 2020
- Peak Wellness Center to host webinar focused on Minority Mental Health Awareness Month - Wyoming Tribune - July 5th, 2020
- Mental Health Greensboro Offers Support This Summer - The Rhino TImes - July 5th, 2020
- Love Island's Belle Hassan opens up on mental health - digitalspy.com - July 5th, 2020
- Providing mental health support for youths affected by COVID-19 - Swinburne University of Technology - July 5th, 2020
- How the Cult of Sleep-Deprivation Affects Work and Mental Health - Harvard Business Review - July 5th, 2020
- Can snoring affect mental health? Heres what you need to know - The Indian Express - July 5th, 2020
- Mental health expert suggests ways for coping with coronavirus crisis - The News International - July 5th, 2020
- Swimming out of the darkness: How cold-water swimming helps with mental health - ABC News - July 5th, 2020
- Mohena Kumari on Covid-19 isolation affecting mental health: I had a lot of anxiety during those d... - Hindustan Times - July 5th, 2020
- Anand Mahindra believes we may be confronting a mental health crisis. Here's why - Times Now - July 5th, 2020
- How neuro-knowledge can help us find happiness and improve mental health - ABC News - July 5th, 2020
- How is mental health manifesting itself in the insurance world? - Insurance Business - June 22nd, 2020
- Native American groups address mental and behavioral health as COVID-19 wears on - Salt Lake Tribune - June 22nd, 2020
- Will digital mental health solutions thrive after Covid-19? - Medical Device Network - June 22nd, 2020
- ATAI dives into digital therapeutics to boost mental health care - FierceBiotech - June 22nd, 2020
- While Some Experts Brace For Tsunami Of Mental Health Issues, Others Predict Crisis Will Be Short-Lived - Kaiser Health News - June 22nd, 2020
- An inside look at Stanford's one-of-a-kind course on mental health innovation, where students mingle with industry experts and develop business plans... - June 22nd, 2020
- Defund police? Some cities have already started, investing in mental health instead - USA TODAY - June 22nd, 2020
- Discussion: You Don't Have To Go Far To Improve Mental Health - WCCO | CBS Minnesota - June 22nd, 2020
- Post-traumatic growth will happen in some after Covid-19 ends - STAT - STAT - June 22nd, 2020
- UPDATE: Police reopen east Bloomington area after addressing 'mental health crisis situation' - Bloomington Pantagraph - June 22nd, 2020
- Mental Health and Sleep Behaviors Are Affected by Diabetic Neuropathic Pain - Endocrinology Advisor - June 22nd, 2020
- 'You are not alone': The pandemic is causing increased anxiety. Here's how to get help - Desert Sun - June 22nd, 2020
- Usher's New Look and Cricket Wireless to Host Virtual Youth Mental Health Summit Addressing the Effects of COVID-19, Systemic Racism and Social... - June 22nd, 2020
- Mental Health Court receives funding for second year - The Owensboro Times - June 22nd, 2020
- Mental health conditions are not a normal part of aging: Dr. Brad Lucas - cleveland.com - June 22nd, 2020
- 'A culmination of crises': America is in turmoil, and a mental health crisis looms next - USA TODAY - June 22nd, 2020
- Covid-19 affects BAME youth mental health more than white peers study - The Guardian - June 22nd, 2020
- UW study looks at the long-term mental health toll of lockdowns - MyNorthwest.com - June 22nd, 2020
- The mental health victims of the pandemic the role of intervention - National Health Executive - June 22nd, 2020
- FCF|REACT Capacity Building on Adult and Child Mental Health - ReliefWeb - June 22nd, 2020
- Three Corners Health hopes to bridge the gap through online mental health forum - Williams Lake Tribune - June 22nd, 2020
- Larimer County, Fort Collins spar over location of behavioral health facility - Coloradoan - June 22nd, 2020
- Pandemic takes a toll on mental health of US residents, new national survey shows - News@Northeastern - June 22nd, 2020
- In the name of #MentalHealth - Mumbai Mirror - June 22nd, 2020
- Uthappa bares it all to raise awareness on mental health and suicide prevention - The New Indian Express - June 22nd, 2020
- Woman Behind Bars With Severe Mental Illness Gets Moved From County Jail - levittownnow.com - June 22nd, 2020
- As activists call to defund the police, mental-health advocates say the time is now to rethink public safety - MarketWatch - June 22nd, 2020
- WRITE TEAM: COVID-19 and mental health/addiction impact - MyWebTimes.com - May 26th, 2020
- Food Service Workers Are on the Brink of a Mental Health Crisis. These Efforts are Helping. - Civil Eats - May 26th, 2020
- 'We are all going through this:' Albany County mental health hotline helping hundreds - Albany Times Union - May 26th, 2020
- Here2Help Mental Health Coalition Library Forum: How to Recognize and Support People in Emotional Distress - TAPinto.net - May 26th, 2020
- VIDEO: YouTuber shows what it's like to have anxiety and panic attacks - Insider - INSIDER - May 26th, 2020
- Mental health and social isolation: how do have an active participation in self-care? - The European Sting - May 26th, 2020
- Cahill calls for mental health unit to be restored, expanded in Kingston - The Daily Freeman - May 26th, 2020
- Copper Ball virtual auction to benefit northern Arizona behavioral health - Arizona Daily Sun - May 26th, 2020
- Online therapy having its moment, bringing insights on how to expand mental health services going forward - The Conversation US - May 26th, 2020
- 'Like an earthquake with many aftershocks,' Coping with mental health and substance abuse issues during pandemic - Monadnock Ledger Transcript - May 26th, 2020
- Mental health apps draw wave of new users as experts call for more oversight - CNBC - May 26th, 2020
- Free Therapy and Mental Health Services You Can Access During the Coronavirus Outbreak - MSN Money - May 26th, 2020
- Mental health: How to care for yourself during the pandemic - CNN - May 26th, 2020
- Covid 19: This form of yoga can improve mental health, suggests study - The Indian Express - May 26th, 2020
- We Need to Take Action to Address the Mental Health Crisis in This Pandemic - TIME - May 26th, 2020
- Katie Lou Samuelson on mental health journey -- 'I realized I needed to ask for help' - ESPN - May 26th, 2020
- 3 signs that your coworker may be struggling with mental health issues - Fast Company - May 26th, 2020
- Singapore-based Intellect wants to lower barriers to mental health support in Asia - TechCrunch - May 16th, 2020
- Take care of your mind: mental health at JMU - The Breeze - May 16th, 2020
- The government will spend $48 million to safeguard mental health. Extending JobKeeper would safeguard it even more - The Conversation AU - May 16th, 2020
- Mental health expert panel discusses how to best deal with differing opinions on COVID-19 - WSAW - May 16th, 2020
- Greater Olean Area Mental Health Professionals Talk About How They Cope With the Pandemic - TAPinto.net - May 16th, 2020
- Letter to the Editor | Mental health requires more attention - Daily Illini - May 16th, 2020
- Mental health therapist concerned about telehealth reimbursements after emergency proclamation ends - KCRG - May 16th, 2020
- Coping Through COVID: The Importance of Mental Health - Patch.com - May 16th, 2020
- Suicide Prevention Aims To Get Ahead Of Pandemic's Added Pressures : Shots - Health News - NPR - May 16th, 2020
- Virtual mental health help for nurses at the front line of COVID-19 pandemic - Wink News - May 16th, 2020
- Experts worry about effects of coronavirus pandemic on those with mental health issues - CBS News - May 16th, 2020
- In China, covid-19 has focused attention on mental health - The Economist - May 16th, 2020
- Im a survival psychologist, and this how weeks of social isolation is affecting your mental health - Well+Good - May 16th, 2020
- No Stigma Nevada: Its the worst time to skimp on mental-health resources - Elko Daily Free Press - May 12th, 2020
- Texas mental health counselors see influx of patients during coronavirus - The Texas Tribune - May 12th, 2020
- COVID-19 and your mental health | Health - Payson Roundup - May 12th, 2020
- Mental health in the workplace: The final frontier - Daily Herald - May 12th, 2020
- With a rapid shift to telehealth, Washburn Center is providing mental health services to children and families - MinnPost - May 12th, 2020