Superyacht crew mental health and wellbeing support resources
In 2021, a fifth of MedAire’s total cases for the year relating to mental health and wellbeing occurred in January. Since most medical issues present hand-in-hand with an emotional side too, the real figures may have in fact been even higher.
Dotted across the world and covering a number of different yachting positions, ages, backgrounds and genders, the data just goes to show how anyone and everyone can be affected by these issues at some point in their lives.
As we look towards the coming months– which may be particularly difficult for many, given last year’s data - we want to highlight two valuable support systems available to superyacht crew in need around the world, as well as a few scenarios of when you might need to access such support.
IT’S BEEN A TOUGH TWO YEARS…
For almost two years now, COVID-19 has significantly impacted on crew in a range of different ways.
Current sources of stress and anxiety that we have heard from our clients include:
• Extended periods spent onboard:
In a bid to minimise COVID-19 risks, many owners are not rotating crew as frequently as they used to, and as a result crew are unable to return home as often. As Omicron has also shown, travel can change at a moment’s notice, making planning ahead challenging, this in turn can potentially exacerbate any relationship or family struggles that might be going on at home.
• Quarantine periods:
Numerous vessels enforce mandatory crew quarantine before boarding – in some cases up to two weeks, resulting in shorter leave periods and therefore less time to unwind.
• General COVID-19 fatigue and uncertainty:
Crew everywhere are tired of COVID-19 protocols, and whilst they may now be second nature, regular testing, mask-wearing and fear about being the one to cause an outbreak, can all have a cumulative effect on stress levels.
Luckily there are a number of different resources available to superyacht crew who are struggling.
FREE SUPERYACHT MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING SUPPORT
The International Seafarer’s Welfare and Assistance Network’s (ISWAN) Yacht Crew Help helpline, is a fantastic free, multilingual, confidential resource for those who do not have access to a structured support service through their yacht.
The service acts as a first port of call for crew members who are having a hard time. Since its launch in November 2020, the helpline has received over 230 cases from crew in need about a range of issues including bullying and harassment, mental health and wellbeing, and unemployment.
Whether looking for practical guidance on, for example, contractual issues; or emotional-support to help explore feelings of loneliness, anxiety, or depression - yacht crew can reach out 24/7, 365 days a year, and be assured of reaching someone who cares about their experience. The team are trained in active-listening and counselling skills, and are experienced in handling the unique dilemmas faced by those who work at sea. They follow up on cases to ensure that issues raised are resolved wherever possible; and individuals who are identified as high-risk or in need of further support may be offered the opportunity to meet with one of ISWAN’s in-house counsellors or signposted towards longer-term support.
As Yacht Crew Help is run by a charity, it is important that the service is made available to those who need it most, for example crew members who are off-contract or who are without internal employer-provided support structures.
To contact Yacht Crew Help or to find out more about the excellent work they do, as well as the training courses they offer click here.
STRUCTURED SUPPORT AND COUNSELLING FOR SUPERYACHT CREW
Ideally mental health and wellbeing support should be provided through your workplace, much like in the corporate world.
With over 60% of the world’s largest superyachts already using MedAire’s telemedical services, if you are onboard a vessel MedAire serves and are concerned about your own or a crew mate’s wellbeing, you can contact us 24/7 for appropriate diagnosis, escalation, or resources.
As mental and physical health are so often intertwined, our medical professionals may suggest treatment plans that consider both aspects, providing a more holistic approach to your overall health.
Many vessels are also signed up to our emotional support add-on, which gives crew members and their families confidential access to five emotional support sessions per crew member, per incident, per year, delivering much-needed comfort to crew members, whose support network may be thousands of miles away.
Captain Paul Duncan, M/Y Starfire says that “An affordable add-on to the MedLink subscription that offers crew access to multiple therapy sessions for crew (and their immediate family), both online and in-person depending on location. There’s full confidentiality for the crew who contact them and, because the costs are subscription-based, crew can call without being concerned about incurring bills (or anyone knowing they’re struggling – one of the biggest hurdles to people seeking help).”
CASE STUDY: LOSS OF PRODUCTIVITY DUE TO GRIEF
A crew member recently contacted MedAire after the passing away of his father.
Within 15 minutes, the counsellor was speaking to the crew member who was grateful for the in-the-moment support, since he felt isolated from friends and family.
He spoke about his feelings of guilt and grief and the counsellor suggested several ways to cope with the loss, given the challenges in getting home to be with his family.
The crew member received further counselling sessions over the phone, as well as in a face-to-face setting, which were essential in building his resilience to return to work.
FIND OUT MORE
To find out if your vessel is subscribed to MedAire’s emotional support service, ask your captain or your MedAire Account Manager.
If you are considering adding emotional support to your MedAire membership, or want to find out more contact us here.