Australian submariner and recruiter, Olivia Brown, speaks to Mamamia magazine (Photo courtesy Mamamia) about submarine life (see below). Her sailor's cap indicates she is based at HMAS Stirling - not a ship or sub but Australia's Fleet Base West at which all six of Australia's Collins subs are based.
Stress management is a growing area throughout the defence forces of Western countries. The unusual stresses and responsibilities of submarine service even in "peacetime" makes stress management particularly important.
A sound stress management program has many benefits including:
- improving attractiveness of recruitment and subsequent retention of submariners
- improving occupational health and safety
- improving morale and security.
On the stresses of submariner life Submarine Matters reported on Royal Navy finding it Difficult to Recruit Submariners, October 1, 2015.
40 seconds into this July 2014 Youtube Chief of the Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, indicates he wants to make the Navy a better place in which to work.
Interesting 2014 reddit Navy forum comments on Depression and Submarines (seems mainly US Navy).
A Mamamia April 27, 2015 interview with Olivia Brown, RAN submariner and recruiter. Most relevant answer "Being at sea can be very full on – long periods away, disrupted sleep cycles, no sunlight for long periods… At the same time [it is] a very fulfilling work environment – sometimes you want your work to be challenging and ever-changing. Ashore, our job I guess is more stable, however it can be mundane and involve a more typical work environment like a normal desk job. Personally I don’t mind being at sea, not sure my partner would agree with that though. Obviously due to the environment we work in, we do get paid considerably more when we are on sea rotation so there is that factor as well."
On US Navy stress management see this article by Michael Melia of Associated Press, via the US military's Stars and Stripes, November 1, 2015 http://www.stripes.com/news/us/navy-submarine-force-increases-stress-management-services-1.376454:
"Navy submarine force increases stress-management services"
GROTON, Conn. — The U.S. Navy's elite submarine force is stepping up stress-management services for its sailors, responding in part to elevated numbers of unexpected dropouts among younger service members.
A psychiatrist at Naval Submarine Base New London, Navy Capt. Steven Wechsler, has been meeting with sailors for the last three months at his office on the waterfront, going aboard submarines to introduce himself, and giving talks on issues surrounding deployments. The idea is to engage sailors who might be reluctant to seek out mental health professionals at a military clinic and keep them focused.
It's a model that the Navy intends to replicate at its six other homeports for submarines in Virginia, Georgia, Hawaii, Washington state, southern California and Guam.
Wechsler himself served in the submarine force for years, and he said that experience helps put sailors at ease. He understands the challenges that come with spending weeks at a time inside a cramped metal tube on stealthy missions, with limited communication home to loved ones.
"When the hatch is shut, that hatch is shut. They are contained within that environment," Wechsler said. "Somebody who is maybe a little more introverted is going to run into difficulty because they're in close proximity to other people all the time."
Options for exercise - one of the more popular stress relievers - are limited not only by space, but also concerns about banging around and making noise that could give up a sub's location. So Wechsler works with sailors on other strategies to improve resilience.
The Navy also has been working to overcome a stigma attached to mental health treatment, and officials say the submarine force's approach - a doctor "embedded" on the waterfront - is among several taken by various military communities.
A spokesman for the submarine force, Cmdr. Tommy Crosby, said the new services stem partly from the leadership's recognition of needs among a younger generation of sailors, as highlighted by a higher rate of dropouts - or "unplanned losses" - for mental health reasons. Other submarine force officials have described tendencies among millennials to include more reliance on feedback and less adaptability to setbacks compared to an older generation.
The submarine force's top enlisted sailor, Force Master Chief Wesley Koshoffer, said mental health issues have arisen for some younger sailors when they first encounter significant stress from a failed relationship, failure of a test, or discipline. He said the Navy has been investing more in teaching coping skills, building mentorship programs and other efforts to give sailors confidence to succeed.
The Navy ran a pilot mental health program a few years ago in Norfolk, Virginia, to see if it could cut down on the dropouts. After a year when submarine crews out of Norfolk had 22 "unplanned losses" for mental health reasons, the program cut that number in the following year in 14, according to Capt. Matthew Hickey, the submarine force's chief medical officer.
Wechsler said he has seen the vast majority of his patients return to duty.
"I can be there immediately when they're having a bad day as opposed to letting that bad day fester and develop a symptomatic response," he said."