PIRACY TODAY BLOGWives of Filipino sailors show pictures of their captive husbands - click photo for The Asian Age story (Time photo)
This article from The Asian Age makes an important point - quoting Chirag Bhari, Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program (MPHRP) regional director: “Families suffer because no news comes from a ship once it is captured. They learn nothing apart from the fact that the ship has been hijacked and the complete stoppage of information causes more stress. In such cases, it helps to cope if they at least know where their loved one was last reported to be.” Mr. Bahri urges seafarers to inform their families about the routes they will transit and the implied dangers.
In addition, he says, “They should rightfully solicit" (from their employer) "all the necessary information on the routes along with discussing the possibility of a hijack. This will help the sailor gauge whether the shipping firm has the financial and administrative wherewithal to pay the ransom and inform his family in case of an attack.”
This is good advice, and we all know it in our hearts. But sometimes it can be hard to tell your loved ones worrisome news, and difficult, also, to press your employer too closely - especially when you're just happy to have a job. In fact, a lot of things can get in the way of doing what we should do.
For survivors of piracy, those things can include false pride and fear. How so - and what can we do about it?
About two weeks ago, Mariners Action Group members met with Douglas Stevenson - Director, Center for Seafarers' Rights - at the Seamen's Church Institute, Port Newark, NJ, to talk about the issues that confront piracy survivors. SCI, in cooperation with Mount Sinai School of Medicine, has been conducting a landmark study of the psychological impact of piracy on seafarers. The study has interviewed dozens of piracy survivors. You can read the results of the study so far, and see YouTube videos of some of those mariners, here.
One factor the study is investigating is what they call "post-event care" - psychological follow-up care to help the piracy victim cope with his traumatic experience, adjust to freedom and family life again, and prepare to go back to sea.
Post-event care is important to the seafarer personally, and it's important to his family that he be able to have it. Unfortunately, post-event care is not available to some survivors; but even when it is, it is often refused. Why would that be?
One reason is that many people regard psychological care as stigmatizing! They're afraid that others - even families & friends who love them - will see them as weak or damaged if they accept such care. Many seamen think, "I'm strong, I can take it - I don't need help". That's where false pride comes in.
But refusing help isn't proof of strength, any more than refusing education would be proof of great intelligence. To get into a good career, one would rely on teachers and mentors to help master the needed knowledge. Similarly, to overcome the pain and damage of pirate captivity, doctors and caregivers can help a survivor to gain mastery over those experiences. In neither case is there shame in honorably getting the help you need to reach the goal. The seafarer needs to understand this, so he can benefit from the care - but his understanding, by itself, is not enough.
The SCI study showed that seafarers often don't trust post-event care providers to safeguard their privacy. They fear that their medical records will be disclosed without their permission to potential employers, resulting in their being blacklisted and unable to work. It's an understandable worry. But it stems from that misconception that if you have received care, there is something wrong with you. If the seafarer thinks that a possible employer will look at his post-event care that way, he will refuse the care.
So it's not enough for the seafarer to understand that getting post-event care is a good thing to do; his family, friends, and future employers need to understand this, too. You can help the seamen in your family - and other seafarers in your community, as well - by helping to combat this damaging misconception about post-event care.
Getting care should carry no stigma! The stigma - if there is any - should more rightfully be on the man who refuses care when it is offered; and on those employers who mistakenly think that getting post-event care indicates some flaw or weakness in that sailor.
Seeking care should indicate just the opposite: a man who seeks post-event care is choosing to take care of that trauma so he can move on, unencumbered, as a whole man - to the benefit of his company, his shipmates, his family, and himself.
Employers should see it as a plus that piracy survivors have had post-event care. To quote the SCI/Sinai study's authors, "Proper rehabilitation yields a seafarer capable of serving effectively and safely, and ship owners should remember that a seafarer who discloses symptoms and receives treatment is a safer employee than one who keeps silent for fear of lost income."
What insight can you give the rest of us about the promise and problems of post-event care? Please comment below - we need to hear from you!