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crew mental health

The superyacht sector is moving in the right direction when it comes to crew mental health, albeit at a snail’s pace according our latest survey.

Following the 2021 survey among 1,000+ crew, we repeated the research in an attempt to monitor whether any headway is being made. The new survey, which collected almost 900 responses at the latter end of 2023, reveals that more yachts are putting policies, practices and services in place to support crew who may suffer from poor mental health.

However, these top-level efforts are yet to have a significant impact on overall crew wellbeing, with very similar results to our previous survey and, actually, overall mood onboard decreasing from 7/10 to 6.5/10.

Despite around 5% more yachts having policies and practices to address mental health, a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) onboard and providing mental health training and/or shoreside support, a large number of crew are still suffering.

Minimal change in crew mental health in two years

There has been little change in the number of crew who are currently or have suffered with poor mental health onboard in the past and the same amount have considered leaving yachting because of it.

Tim Clarke, Director at Quay Crew, commented:

“Although the statistics speak for themselves and fail to uncover any major breakthroughs, the sentiment is that many yachts are trying to make positive changes and that there are some easy-to-implement improvements to be made that would bring great rewards.

“Comments from respondents suggest that something as simple as adhering to hours of rest would be hugely beneficial, as would improving leadership. When asked what four things would help to improve mental health onboard the most, better leadership, mental health training and awareness, better leave and more downtime/adherence to hours of rest were cited in that order. 

“There’s also a lot to be said about setting realistic expectations from the outset; ensuring incoming crew are fully aware of the high-pressure environment, and accepting that sometimes, it’s just not a suitable career choice for some people.”

Better leadership needed

The top contributing factors to poor mental health onboard also remain the same as 2021 – burnout/fatigue, crew tension/politics, poor sleep and poor leadership. 

Over half of superyacht crew feel better leadership would be most beneficial in improving mental health onboard, with interior and galley crew suffering the most.

Poor leadership and poor mental health are most prevalent across the interior and galley departments, according to survey responses. Stews and chefs not only rate their mental health and mood poorest onboard, but also suffer most from stress and anxiety, and feel that lack of support and poor leadership contributes more to this over and above any other department. In particular, low morale amongst the team is 10% higher as is bullying and harassment.

Across all departments, two-fifths disagree that they are supported if they are down or unhappy onboard and more than a third feel uncomfortable approaching their HOD with mental health issues. Just 14% and 7% would approach their Captain or HOD respectively with any concerns, representing no movement since 2021.

Caroline Clarke-Jack, Director and Interior Consultant at Quay Crew, commented:

“The increased existence of poor mental health within the interior department is, unfortunately, not surprising, but must be addressed.

“Given the regular interaction and face-time with owners and guests, the front-of-house element of many interior tasks can cause a level of pressure not necessarily experienced in other roles. A lot can also be said about the limited opportunities to get out on deck and simply get some fresh air sometimes.

“Having said that, there is simply no excuse for such a significant presence of bullying and harassment, discrimination, and crew tension in the interior. It is therefore expected that the survey results also show the highest levels of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and isolation/loneliness among Stews and the galley team.

“Lack of support, low morale amongst team, and poor leadership are also cited as contributing factors to poor mental health, over and above any other department. In fact, the interior and galley departments feel least comfortable approaching their HOD with mental health issues and rate better leadership as the biggest improvement that can be made to enhance mental health onboard.”

This survey details, at length, mental health awareness and experience among crew, and includes a comparison from 2021 respondents as well as comparing gender, department, time in yachting and longevity.

Charles Watkins of Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS) and Emma Kate Ross of Seas the Mind also provide expert commentary.

Please contact us to request the full report.

Crew mental health – The state of the superyacht sector 2024

About the author

Charlotte Flake

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