“I attended a Towards Zero Suicide conference in 2018, which was about reducing suicides in Cornwall,” Ceri Summers, lead mental health practitioner and founder of Fairwinds Cornwall told Fishing News. “I was really struck by that conference because they were talking about male suicide. One suicide is too many, one loss of life is too many.”

Drawing on experience gained from a career working in primary care with a focus on people experiencing depression, anxiety, stress and low mood, Ceri founded Fairwinds Cornwall in 2018. The service provides a
range of interventions and support tailored to a person’s specific needs – including the unique factors that can affect fishermen.

“I started thinking to myself in response to that conference: How can I make an impact? How can I start working with more men?

“I was speaking to Dr Matthew Boulter, a GP who I work very closely with down in West Penwith. He made the initial link between me and the GetSeaFit programme, and suggested we have a conversation.” The programme, a joint initiative by the Fishermen’s Mission and the Seafarers’ Hospital Society, is now known as SeaFit.

“So I had a conversation with the SeaFit programme, and they commissioned Fairwinds to develop a small counselling project – just to see if there would be any uptake in Newlyn, where it was primarily launched.

“It was a small project, over one day a week. It was me down in Newlyn just starting to get to know people in the direct community – the Fishermen’s Mission, GPs, Seafood Cornwall Training.

“I had a little room in Newlyn, and started taking referrals from the Fishermen’s Mission and anyone who wanted to self-refer.”

Since then, with additional time and funding, the project has developed and gone from strength to strength. Fairwinds is currently running clinics in Newlyn, Newquay and Mevagissey, with an increase in outreach work, as well as providing therapy sessions by phone, online or in person.

Last year, Ceri (pictured centre), along with the NFFO’s Charles Blyth (front right), helped to deliver training ahead of the incoming ML5 medical requirements. The project is just one example of the work she is doing to open up conversations. “People who have used the service often go and talk about their experiences. That helps to break down the stigma and reduce barriers. We’ve had referrals in response to that, and fishermen might come via other fishermen. The support and the trust have been built up both ways.”

The nature of her role means that no two days are the same when it comes to Ceri’s working week.

“An important aspect of the work I do is the one-to-one work with fishermen. I could be undertaking an initial assessment or carrying out some therapy, depending on what the specific need is. That could be face to face, via phone, or by video call.

“I could also be doing outreach work, which involves port visits to have informal conversations with fishermen. It’s about being visible and letting people know what services are available to them, and keeping communication channels open.

“I work closely with other agencies supporting fishermen. For example, I attended a team talk with fishermen in St Ives, which was hosted by Seafood Cornwall Training, with a representative from the MCA. Myself and Eddie Fletcher from the Fishermen’s Mission were invited there to talk about what we do.”

Ceri’s role has also seen her provide training to enable fishermen to become mental health advocates amongst their peers and local community. “This was funded by the Integrated Care Board (NHS) and a donation from Aspects Holidays. We had six ports in Cornwall represented, and 13 fishermen attended.

“The training covered raising awareness around mental health and suicide, and how to promote open conversations around wellbeing. We aim to keep a feedback loop going, and we have open conversations about what’s happening in their port.”

As a clinician, Ceri needs to ensure that she stays up to date with her own professional competencies and knowledge, as well as trying to keep abreast of changes in the fishing industry.

“I spend time researching or looking at information to better understand some of the issues fishermen face so that Fairwinds can deliver a personalised and meaningful service for them.

“Around the time the ML5s were coming in, we linked up with the NFFO to deliver training. We understood the enormity of these and the impact it might have, and wanted to support our fishermen. Not everybody needs psychological therapy – it’s about knowing that offering a helpful phone number is a good first step.”

Those awareness sessions, along with visibility on quaysides around Cornwall, is helping fishermen tackle subjects that aren’t always the easiest to talk about.

Ceri having a chat with Newlyn skipper Alan Dwan who, along with many in the local industry, has been very supportive of Fairwinds Cornwall and its work. “People have been using the service, but also publicly talking about it. We now have fishermen trained as mental health advocates who let me share posts online, and make it public that they’ve had training around mental health.”

“The proudest achievement of Fairwinds Cornwall is starting that dialogue with men – specifically fishermen – around their own mental and emotional health, and how receptive they’ve been to that conversation and how supportive of Fairwinds they’ve been.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has supported Fairwinds and given us the opportunity to develop this initiative in such an important area. We hope we can continue to support fishermen and their families at the point of need.”

Help is available to any fisherman experiencing mental or emotional wellbeing issues. As a first step, Ceri advises speaking to a GP, trusted friends, family or the Fishermen’s Mission. Ceri is also often quayside in Cornwall with her colleague Sarah Counter or Eddie Fletcher from the Fishermen’s Mission.

Alternatively, text ‘FISH’ to 85258 for confidential support any time, day or night, via the SeaFit SHOUT 24/7 service.

Fairwinds Cornwall is a Cornwall-based service which also accepts self-referrals. More information is available at: talk@fairwindscornwall.co.uk or by calling: 07934 720429. Find it on Facebook or Instagram @fairwindscornwall or on X @fairwinds_ltd.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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