This year has seen a lot of work being done within the maritime industry to support seafarers' mental health. Driven by the Maritime Charities Group (MCG) the MNTB have agreed standards to certify crew in ‘Mental Health Awareness and Wellbeing Training’, and in November we saw the launch of the maritime charity ISWAN’s 24 hour support hotline for superyacht crew YachtCrewHelp.org, funded by the industry for the industry.
It has long been recognised that whether at sea or ashore we need to manage our health, including our mental health. When we are in good physical health we have the fitness and vitality to be active and get things done, just as good mental health makes us feel balanced and positive, enabling us to cope with day to day events. And just as the severity of physical ill health varies, mental ill health can vary from feeling overly stressed to full blown depression that is potentially life threatening.
The causes of mental health problems also vary hugely from individual to individual, although commonly reported issues include bullying, harassment, stress, over work, fatigue and problems at home. As a leader you need to be alert to the mood of your crew and observant of the quality of the relationships on board. For example, has what started out as a bit of light banter between crew gone too far for one of them? Are you aware it's going on and are you able to check in with the individual concerned? Do you have regular one to one check-ins? When you're busy these things are easy to overlook but, as a leader, there are things you can do that may prevent a bad situation spiralling into a serious mental health issue for a member of your crew.
Dealing with mental health early is key. Do your crew know where to turn to for help? Be sure to spread the word that YachtCrewHelp.org is available to all crew who need help and support, whether they simply need to speak to someone in confidence or need information about the professional services available to them. It's also important to be sure that your yacht has signed up to medical insurance policy that includes mental health cover.
Creating a culture that values and normalises discussion around crew mental health is also important. This includes being observant and taking notice of crew who appear unusually quiet, withdrawn or unusually bad tempered. Has their behaviour changed from what is their ‘normal’? Most importantly, make sure you establish the practice of regular one to ones, beginning with the captain and heads of department, cascading to their teams, so that everyone on board has the chance to be seen and heard. When you ask the question ‘how are you?’, take time to really listen to the answer.
It is the aspiration of ISWAN and their supporters that every superyacht crew member is aware of the website ‘YachtCrewHelp.org’ so what can you do to help on board your yacht to bring the subject on the table.
Impact Crew offers a range of training on board and virtually, including leadership development, ‘Stress Happens’ workshops and mental health training in partnership with Red Square Medical Give us a call to discuss how we can help.