According to a 2018 International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) survey, a whopping 82 percent of superyacht
crew reported that they sometimes struggled with low crew morale, while 55 percent of female respondents found accessing mental health care an occasional or regular challenge.
That’s why ISWAN welcomed Bond Technology Management (Bond TM) in May as its primary partner for its new online toolkit for superyacht crew, Yacht Crew Help, which should debut in eight to 12 weeks at the time of press. It provides crew with a direct line to 24-hour emotional support, practical guidance, and useful health and welfare resources. It also includes resources for promoting good mental wellbeing and other industry-specific guidance, all for free.
Having initially raised just over £21,000 to fund the toolkit’s development, maintenance, and promotion, they’re now raising funds for the ongoing operational costs to run their helpline and other services. At the time of press, £13,628 had been raised for ISWAN’s helpline, as well as for seafarers and efforts to help meet the recommendations in their welfare research report.
“Having been crew, I just wanted to help make this a reality for our crew of today and for the future,” says Will Faimatea, director and founder of Bond TM — he was also an ETO from 1994 to 2000 on superyachts such as M/Y Aviva. “Like in all walks of life, mental health was less talked about back then. Some of us may be aware of someone who has suffered from mental illness, and society has moved forward a lot from twenty years ago. Being crew can be isolating and if this project is able to help those in need one day, then current crew will already be better off,” he says.
Caitlin Vaughan, ISWAN’s project manager, has been coordinating the new toolkit’s development. “The idea came from discussions with an industry group as a response to the 2018 survey we conducted on the welfare needs of superyacht crew,” she says. “Our research findings showed that access to mental health support is a real challenge for superyacht crew and that episodes of work-related stress are common. This toolkit aims to make it much easier for crew to access support when they need it and to offer resources to help to alleviate some of the other issues raised during our research,” says Vaughan.
In the first phase of the project, the toolkit will focus on mental health support for crew. Next they’ll address and provide resources for the issues identified in the report, such as drug and alcohol abuse, financial literacy, and support when moving to shore-based roles. “The survey also identified a need for more effective leadership training and guidance,” Vaughan says.
Although Capt. O’Shannassy is no longer active crew, he was a seagoing captain a year ago when he contacted ISWAN. “Daily, I was dealing with complex emotional support issues without all the tools needed to support those in need,” says the captain, whose vision is to put Yacht Crew Help details and its helpline on a sticker in every crew cabin. He’d also like to have it distributed to all new entrants to the industry via training providers as they complete their STCW.
“It will provide educational tools for captains and crews to normalize the conversation around mental health,” says O’Shannassy. “It will provide a captain the information to speak with confidence about a challenging topic and allow a crewmember to read (or speak with) someone about their emotional state.”
“The service is free for all crewmembers in need of assistance and we will continue fundraising efforts to ensure it remains available
as long as the need is there,” says Vaughan. To contribute, go to www.yachtcrewhelp.org.
“It’s okay not to be okay,” says Capt. O’Shannassy, adding that you should also ask your friends if they’re okay. “The more the conversation is normalized, the closer we become to having healthy crew. The needle must move where mental health and crew wellness are spoken of in the manner of fire drills or other medical treatments, where we just do it because it is the right thing to do and could not imagine it not being considered.”