How are superyacht crew affected by mental health issues?

Mental health has become a hot topic across all industries, including the yachting industry. An increasing number of crew members are beginning to share their problems, and the yachting industry is finally opening up the floor for possible solutions. The formerly taboo topic no longer has such a significant stigma linked to it, thanks to the rise of social media and more attention in the mainstream media. Mental health disorders can affect anybody at any moment; according to WHO studies, one in every four individuals will have a mental condition at some point in their lives.

Mental health and well-being have never been more crucial because of the added pressure and uncertainty that the pandemic has placed on the crew in the last two years. Unlike in most other industries, whereby support is more readily available, superyacht crews are heavily restricted and isolated when working abroad. 

The results of Quay Crew’s mental health crew survey in collaboration with MHSS, which included feedback from 1,019 crewmembers of various ages, experiences, and countries, were released recently. According to the study, over half of superyacht crew members believe their mental health has deteriorated since working in the industry. One in five experienced poor mental health while on board, and a third previously did so.

Burnout and exhaustion, crew friction and politics, and inadequate sleep onboard induce stress, anxiety, and loneliness among crew members across all departments. You’re at sea, hundreds of miles from home, and without reliable internet connectivity as a crewmember. You can’t always contact loved ones when you want to, and there isn’t always a lot of spare time to go away from work and relax. There also appears to be a link between the length of time a crew member has worked in the yachting sector, the quantity of leave they receive, and their mental health.

The study’s findings have the potential to be disastrous for the industry, as they could lead to sad individual outcomes and a mass exodus of personnel and long-term recruitment issues in an already candidate-short market.

The superyacht sector has to take immediate action because 62% of respondents say they are unaware of any rules or practices to address mental health concerns. Yet, nearly three quarters say they would want dedicated assistance and services.

Working as a crew member is stressful, regardless of how much you enjoy your job or how well you get along with your coworkers. Crew members operate under challenging conditions, such as cramped quarters, isolation from friends and family, and long hours, and they are aware that this is part of the job. Unlike in a normal corporate environment, superyachts do not have a designated HR department, making it difficult for staff to know who to go to in difficult situations.

Yachting isn’t the only profession where people deal with mental health. And while the industry has unique challenges, there’s no excuse for employers not to change the way they’ve traditionally done things. It is the industry’s duty to seek to improve attitudes, practices, cultures, policies, and ways of doing things so that mental health ‘problems’ are no longer triggered by industry ‘norms’ because they no longer exist. 

It should also be noted that approaches to mental health issues need to be reactive when someone needs help and should also be preventative. Crew need to be more equipped from their initial training and induction on the yacht. By investing more in the initial training and induction process, longevity and productivity abroad will also improve.

What can you do to protect your mental health and welfare 1000s of kms away from your home and family? To whom can you turn for help? More so now than ever, captains and other stakeholders need to be providing more support to crew members and putting structures in place to ensure the wellbeing of everyone on board.

When deciding if yachting life is for you, it’s essential to learn about the job’s obstacles, assess whether you’re mentally equipped for such a demanding lifestyle, and, if you are, figure out how you’ll overcome the problems that lie ahead. By training with Super Yachting South Africa, you have access to mentors that can assist you in navigating the mental challenges you are likely to experience onboard. With their years of expertise, our staff guide you so that you can learn from their mistakes and make the most of your life onboard.

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