The sad fact is that, as amazing as a career in yachting is, suicide is the top cause of seafarers’ deaths. So, what are the top factors affecting the happiness and overall well-being of crew?
Social interaction onboard – when you have a group living in close quarters, but with different nationalities, cultures, and different ways of socializing, it can be difficult to encourage an active and positive social life onboard. But arranging team activities and sports could be a solution to getting all involved. As well as restricting alcohol, but not necessarily banning it all together.
Mental wellbeing – who has time for a morning workout, or an afternoon stretch class or some quiet time to meditate when on a busy charter boat with back-to-back bookings? Neglecting physical fitness and exercise can contribute to depression and anxiety in many individuals. Pilates with Vee shares tips on how to fit in a quick short burst of exercise, to do in your cabin if needs be, to keep those endorphins pumping!
Shore leave – we expect there are many eye rolls and sniggers at this point. Life onboard means limited to zero time with loved ones. However, just like any other job, crew also need to take time out.
Superyacht chef Dean Harrison made a valid point ‘’It’s a hard slog as we all know too well. I personally think there should be more positions like mine [rotational] running further down the ranks to create a healthier working environment. It’s very unsustainable for full-time crew working this much’’.
The crew coach shared a harrowing story on Yachting International Radio recently with a crew interview, he shared his story of loss, the warning signs and what he missed. His best friend on yachts was posting that no-one was checking on him and maybe he should just disappear. But the posts weren’t taken so seriously, and one-week later he took his own life.
Our own lives are all so busy, with many things on our minds, guests to look after, tasks lists piling up. But it’s important that we take the time to listen. Look at changes in behaviour and in their tone, focus on ‘active listening’, feedback what the person is saying to you, saying it out loud and then discussing it to see if they’re just feeling a little overwhelmed, or if it’s something more.
Fatigue – we aren’t talking about a couple bad nights’ sleep, the fatigue that yachties feel can be debilitating, overwhelming, unending tiredness, which can lead to negative and potentially dangerous effects onboard for the individual and/or the running of the yacht. Constantly feeling tired, overwhelmed, or unable to focus are signs of mental fatigue. The most common symptoms include mental block, lack of motivation, irritability, stress eating or loss of appetite and insomnia.
Now is the time for action, the fight against the stigma attached to mental health awareness is going to be a long one, but there is a place for every single crew member to start.
When we heard the great work that Seas the Mind was doing, Bluewater immediately contacted Emma Kate Ross, their trained Mental Health First Aid Instructor, to see how we could help seafarers become more aware of the issues and create a more healthier, positive, and balanced work environment.
Eating disorders, depression, self-harm, addictions, the list goes on, and some people are very good at hiding these until it’s too late.
If you’re in Antibes or Palma, Emma will be hosting two 2-day Mental Health Awareness First Aid training courses in September and October, with half-day course options available soon, which is the perfect start for all crew, as everyone has a role to play onboard in looking out for each other.
For Captains and HODs
During the 2-day course Emma will go into the importance for captains and HODs to be aware of their team’s mental health and personal situations, and their responsibility for crew welfare. The mental health issues covered in this training are depression, suicide, substance misuse, anxiety disorders, self-harm, eating disorders and personality disorders.
For all seafarers, no matter what your role onboard
The 4-hour / half day Mental Health Awareness Course gives an understanding of what mental health is and ways in which crew can challenge the stigmas associated with it. Participants will learn the basics of common mental health issues and receive an introduction to looking after their own, and others’, well-being onboard.
Speak up, you’re never alone
If you feel some of the above comments relate to you, or to someone you know, or you suspect someone is feeling like this, don’t leave it, don’t think ‘I’ll talk to them tomorrow’. Just drop them a quick message asking if they’re ok, tell them you’re free to talk, or give them helpline details that they can contact if you don’t feel equipped to deal with this yourself. We have listed some useful numbers on our mental health awareness blog.
Take care of yourselves, yachting is an amazing career, the places you visit, the people you meet, the experiences you get to enjoy, it can be such a high! And with a healthy, well balanced lifestyle, active social life, exercise and a supportive team, you can feel like the luckiest person being paid to do this work.
We hope to see you at one of the mental health awareness courses with group discussions and workshop activities, supporting each other and encouraging an open dialect between your peers.
Article by Bluewater Yachting – https://www.bluewateryachting.com/