Anyone who has worked on boats for a while will know that it’s not the dream life of luxury and glitz that some people will tell you. It’s a tough industry to succeed in and involves long hours and serious graft.
It is however important to remember that we are all human and that none of us are immune to the stresses of life and the knock on effects this can have. The World Health Organization estimates that 300 million people around the world suffer with depression. The number of people affected by anxiety disorder is even higher. It is therefore to be expected that this is an issue that will affect a large number of yacht crew, many of whom are told to “man up” and we see yachts advertise “drama free” positions.
There has been a recent drive to raise awareness about mental health issues on-board yachts and to break the stigma which is still very much prevalent within the industry. This is partly due to a number of recent suicides and other sad stories within the yacht crew ‘family’.
Mental health and emotional wellbeing is a subject that is close to home for me. I have family members and close friends that have battled various disorders throughout their lives, and with support and professional help they have kept going through the ups and downs. It is a very complex situation, sometimes the ones who bring the most joy to others hold the most sadness inside. In September of 2017 a childhood friend of mine was found, by his mother, hanging in his bedroom. None of us had any idea that he was depressed. Many of those who knew him were left asking themselves if there was anything they could have done to help. Could we have prevented this from happening? That’s a hard thing to be left with.
Part of the message that I want to get across is that if you or someone you know is suffering with any kind of mental health issues, there is help out there. If left untreated and without help, things are unlikely to get better. As captains and fellow crew members it is important to be on the lookout for signs that things may not be okay. As individuals we should understand that it is absolutely fine to ask for help.
Mental health issues are not a sign of weakness. Like any other illness it is a part of life. Please do look after yourselves. Try to limit alcohol consumption and consider the affects it will have as well as that of the use of drugs. Perhaps you can handle it but what about those that are tagging along with you? Also bear in mind that diet and sleeping patterns have a huge impact on ones wellbeing.
If things should reach breaking point or you have concerns about yourself or someone around you, please do take action. Below are some of the service and organisations that can offer support.
SeafarerHelp is the free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. SeafarerHelp is provided by the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), an organisation that works to promote the welfare of seafarers and their families.
Phone: +44 20 7323 2727
Nautilus International is an independent, influential, global trade union and professional organisation, committed to delivering high quality, cost-effective services to members, and welfare support to necessitous seafarers, their dependence and other maritime professional.
Phone: +44 20 8989 6677
MedAire Emotional Support. An international SOS company. Designed specifically for the unique needs of those who live and work on yachts, MedAire Emotional Support Service assist captains and their crewmembers dealing with psychological and emotional issues for which log-term counselling is appropriate.
Phone: +44 1252 517 951
Karine Rayson from The Crew Coach has been very active in raising awareness about crew wellbeing and mental health issues on-board. I encourage you to view her facebook page: facebook.com/thecrewcoach
I have recently been involved with a new project called Yacht Crew – That’s Not Okay which aims to tackle various subjects that affect yacht crew such as unsafe working practices, bullying and mental health issues. To go with this article I have created a post on our facebook page with the aim of getting a discussion going. I hope that people will be willing to share some of their stories and thoughts `about this subject. In turn perhaps others will feel more comfortable about opening up if they are feeling depressed, anxious, sad or lonely. You can find the facebook post here: bit.ly/stigma-mental-health
I wish you all the best for the coming month. Stay safe and look after each other!