WHAT CREW ARE SAYING ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH IN THE YACHTING INDUSTRY IN 2020
Written by Joshua Davenport-Braes
Last updated: 21/01/2020
Attitudes towards mental health have seen a significant shift in recent times. The days of suffering in silence are coming to a close and societally, we have a much greater understanding of the importance of issues surrounding mental health than ever before.
But does this translate to the yachting industry? To gain a further insight into how mental health issues are treated in the yachting world, we surveyed a number of serving crew to gain real insight into how those on the frontline feel about attitudes within the industry.
Last year, we presented a brief insight into the issues that are prevalent among crew by speaking to a current superyacht crew member. She shared experiences of long hours, misconceived perceptions and, more broadly, some of the challenges that come with the job. If you haven’t read this article already, we would highly recommend reading it as the qualitative information given from this interview creates an interesting insight.
The Mental Health Foundation suggested that one in six adults will have a common mental disorder at any point in time, which highlights how frequently mental health issues can occur. So, what is being done to safeguard those at sea? What are yacht owners and captains doing to help those who might be struggling on board?
Yacht crew mental health survey results
For the sake of anonymity, all respondents’ identities have been hidden from our results.
What do you think are the general attitudes towards mental health and stress by captains, crew and owners on board superyachts?
The above pie chart makes for quite an alarming start to our report. A large majority of respondents found that the perceptions towards mental health were actively negative, with only 3.7% of respondents reporting the contrary.
When asked to elaborate further, crew members suggested that “there is still much ignorance and unwillingness to discuss the topic honestly,” and that “I have experience of working with people who fire you if you show weakness (in the form of exhaustion, stress, anxiety etc).” These kinds of comments are not indicative of an environment that shows due care for mental health issues. One respondent even commented “I’m expendable.”
Have you personally struggled with a mental health problem on board, or do you know someone who has?
A large majority of respondents said that either themselves or someone they know have suffered with a mental health issue whilst on board.
When on board, did you/they talk to anyone about how you/they were feeling?
The results of this question suggest that those who did have mental health problems, did not feel they had any capacity to talk about how they feel. Psychology Today has spoken about the importance of sharing your feelings, and not bottling things up.
Why did you/they not speak to anyone?
Out of all respondents who chose to answer as to why no one spoke about how they are feeling, a majority confirmed that they ‘Didn’t feel comfortable speaking to anyone’ with the next most popular answering being ‘left the yacht’.
Was there any understanding/empathy and/or support put in place to help?
Yacht crew feel as if there is little understanding or support in place for mental health issues when on board.
Do you think the superyacht industry is doing enough to look after the overall health and wellbeing of crew?
The responses to this final question appear to be the most telling: of all respondents questioned, 96.3% felt that there was not enough being done to protect either the overall health or wellbeing of yacht crew.
Those surveyed were asked to provide comment in tandem with their answer to the above question: ‘Take time to realise crew are humans too’ was a particularly powerful comment we received. It seems clear that of the crew we surveyed, a large majority feel as if some of their basic human needs are not being catered to.
One commenter said, ‘Follow the law in regards to hours of rest and put rotations in place more often. Take peoples mental well-being seriously.’ Many other comments from crew mirror this sentiment, suggesting that crew are being heavily overworked which raises a serious concern for both mental and physical health.
Whilst some of these results make for a fairly grim read, the world’s perception towards mental health issues are changing and many employers are taking more accountability for staff wellbeing. We can’t guarantee that changes will be made for crew but hopefully the continually growing awareness around issues regarding mental health will see positive changes and a shift in attitudes in the near future.