If anyone is experiencing a bout of cabin fever at the moment, working and living in the same environment with no clear end date as to when we might return to normal life, it is a valuable time to consider superyacht crew, and certain worrying similarities to isolation that can be experienced in some cases, when on board.

Many of you who are reading this abroad will have been in isolation for much longer than those here in the UK, with some countries in total lockdown. But there is an overwhelming sense of community that has emerged from this crisis, and mental health is firmly positioned as a priority and a crucial topic of conversation. When our day-to-day activities are limited, and we are spending much more time than often in a confined space with the same few people, practising good mental wellbeing and positive thinking is essential.

In advance of the publication of The Superyacht Captains’ Report, whereby we are dedicating some of the pages to a range of contemporary challenges experienced by crew and looking at how these are being tackled, SuperyachtNews spoke to Liam Dobbin, Managing Director – WilsonHalligan, about how the industry can ensure the longevity of crew, and the role that mental health has to play in this instance.

“Earlier this year, we hosted a Mental Health and Self-Awareness course in La Ciotat, which was well attended. Some people, so far, don’t fully understand the benefits of mental wellbeing,” began Dobbin, but it appears this can have a very tangible impact if overlooked.

There were various companies involved in the Wilson Halligan event, but one of the companies were talking to the crew in attendance about the concept of mental health first-aid. “This company was offering to train crew to be mental health first-aiders - to be able to pick up the basics if somebody on board is stressed,” he continued.

By providing crew with the basics of identifying someone in need, and progressing to being able to provide mental health first-aid, tragic losses could well be avoided in the future...

Tragically, there continue to be cases of crew taking their own lives, but when they are working in an environment surrounded by other people, this cannot continue to be acceptable. By providing crew with the basics of identifying someone in need, and progressing to being able to provide mental health first-aid, tragic losses could well be avoided in the future.

“We also had someone talking about nutrition, and we had about 20-30 crew participating in a yoga class,” added Dobbin, identifying the benefit of these lessons and skills, which can improve mental wellbeing, and crew can easily take back on board with them.

From a working perspective, not regulating an employee’s mental health can have an impact and put pressure on the wider team. “If a crewmember feels very stressed, they may need to leave and will need a couple of months off. However, if people talk about it and if it’s managed on board – not in terms of giving rest but also reviewing that person – there’ll potentially be less accidents and people wouldn’t need to leave,” he explained.

“As an example, you could put somebody on their leave earlier, if there are the right resources, and they’ll come back refreshed. Rather than if they reach burnout at the end of the season, leave, and then you need somebody new. You could add another extra crewmember into the rota and then rotate them out so you give the crew more leave, which can then result in longevity.

“Extra leave isn’t always the answer, but it is one of them,” Dobbin outlined. Providing more regular breaks and leave should mean that crew are operating at a better capacity, will not get so tired, and they can work happily knowing that there’s a gap ahead where they aren’t relied upon. 

To read the full feature, please download or order your edition of The Superyacht Captains’ Report, which will be available here from May 2020.

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