Managing Your Mental Health Onboard

Posted: 29th August 2019 | Written by: Karen Passman

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Mental health is a hot topic, and rightfully so, being just as important as any other aspect of human wellbeing. With greater understanding of the importance of mental health in the workplace, and its impact on everything from efficiency to job satisfaction, the superyacht industry is taking stock.

The consequences of poor mental health are all too evident after the event. In some cases individuals have harmed themselves or others, or they have left the industry having been unable to cope with the daily stress of the job. Tragically, some have resorted to taking their own lives.

Mental health is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as ‘a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’ and, just as physical health lies on a scale, so too does mental health.

Crew are generally well versed in the importance of maintaining their physical health through diet and exercise but their mental health tends to get less attention.

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There’s growing consensus now that the superyacht industry should do more to provide crew with the support and tools they need to take care of their mental health, so Impact Crew has partnered with Red Square Medical to provide a training event called ‘Stress Happens!’ The mental health charity MIND sites prolonged stress as one of the primary causes of poor mental health so learning how to manage stress is a good place to start.

Stress can be defined as the bodys reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response, whether physical, mental or emotional. You can experience stress from your environment, your body or your thoughts and it’s a normal part of everyday life. A certain level of stress can enhance performance as our bodies move into ‘fight or flight’ mode, heightening our senses and enabling us to react more effectively to the situation at hand. However, beyond a certain level the pressure we experience becomes overwhelming and, over a period of time, this can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Recognising and Managing Your Own Stressors

Step one in the process of preventative mental health is to recognise and manage your stressors. Perhaps social media is driving your emotional state and you need to take a break from it. Perhaps one of your colleagues is taking the banter too far, or maybe you’re feeling bullied.

It’s not until you are able to identify what causes you to feel stressed that you can deal with it and find strategies that help. If someone’s joking is offensive to you, be brave
and have the conversation; let them know the impact it’s having on you. Some people find music helps to reduce stress, while others turn to meditation or exercise. Some people need more solitude while others need more company.

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Where to Turn for Help

With one in four people struggling with poor mental health at some point in their lives, there’s no shame in asking for support. Sometimes just the act of sharing your thoughts and concerns with a sympathetic listener can make all the difference. If you can’t find that on board, try calling a good friend. Or it may be that a professional ear is the next step – there are numerous organisations available to you with people ready to listen.

Last year the maritime charity ISWAN (International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network) conducted a study into the wellbeing of superyacht crew. A key finding was the lack of awareness in the industry of the resources and support available to seafarers. These include first aider mental health qualification and 24-hour help lines for those in crisis, such as SeafarerHelp provided by ISWAN, or Nautilus 24/7 for Nautilus members.

ISWAN is also in the process of raising funds to provide a dedicated superyacht portal providing links to all the relevant support services available for crew. The website will be called superyachtcrewhelp.org and it should be live by the end of the year.

If you are able to help with fund raising, please contact Caitlin Vaughan at ISWAN: email: iswan@iswan.org.uk; tel: +44 (0)300 012 4279.

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Supporting Others

Have you noticed crew getting stressed? That’s normal... but what if their usual behaviour has changed? Perhaps they have started to withdraw, are no longer eating or socialising with everyone else, or perhaps they snap every time you try to have a conversation. Such behaviour is not exceptional, but if it’s unusual for that individual and it’s becoming the norm there may be cause for concern.

Sometimes all someone needs is to be able to express their thoughts and feelings out loud. Find a good time and place to offer your support. Ask them how they are; twice. The first response most people give is ‘I’m fine’. Perhaps let them know you’ve noticed a change and you’re concerned for them. Be a good listener – don’t interrupt, offer solutions, or dismiss their worries. They will need to work out for themselves what they need in order to get to a better place. The majority of us are not mental health experts but we can offer a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to listen without judgement. If the individual is in need of greater support, you may be able to point them in the right direction.

The Stress Happens! one day workshop will be tailored to your yacht’s unique requirements. For further information, please contact either: Karen Passman of Impact Crew or Liz Baugh of Red Square Medical.

Image Credits: Chris LawtonJeremy Perkins, Nikko Tations, Fezbot2000Dustin Belt on Unsplash

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