I read a very upsetting article today about a young crewmember who lost her life whilst working on board a yacht. The news was quickly shared around the global tabloids, even the Finnish ones, stating that the suspected cause of death was suicide.
Mental health issues amongst seafarers is a taboo subject and this proves we should talk more about the mental, as well as physical wellbeing of crew when working onboard.
According to figures from the UK P&I Club, published in a recent article by Nautilus International, suicide rates among seafarers have more than tripled since 2014. In 2015, suicide was cited as the cause of death in 15.3% of identified mental health cases, having risen from 4.4.% in 2014, according to the club's internal claims system. These numbers are of course for the whole shipping industry but why would the yachting industry be any different? The fact that seafarers are three times more likely to commit suicide that land based workers is shocking and something must be done.
Whose responsibility is it to take care of the mental and physical well being of the crew? The captain, owner, management company? Personally, I think it’s everyone on board. We need to have tools to react and reach out when we see that someone is not well. I think that being young, living away from loved ones, having a hugely demanding job with long hours and sharing your accommodation with strangers is enough to tip anyone over the edge once in a while. I would like to open a discussion on how this could be resolved and would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions and feedback.
My husband Mikko joined a new vessel few weeks ago and on his new yacht smartphones are not allowed during working hours or in the crew mess. I think this is brilliant! The crews need to communicate with each other and not just stare at a screen whilst eating or having coffee. I think this might be the first step towards a healthier working environment.
The same thing has happened here in France, where we live and our daughter goes to school - smart phones, tablets and smart watches were banned in primary and secondary schools by law. This was one of the campaign promises of President Emmanuel Macron.
His reasoning was to make cyber bullying via social media more difficult and to teach children to talk to each other and communicate. Too much screen time is not good for us, we all know that already. It effects our social behavior and also our health and sleep.
I am passionate about starting a discussion around these issues. We should all acknowledge that working conditions on board a busy superyacht are extremely tough, and crew deserve to have the same rights and support networks as our onshore workmates. Lets keep this subject open, make sure crew know that they are not alone, and work towards helping them tackle these problems.