Author: Karina Greco
ADVENTUREPRENEUR: YACHT CREW | TRAVEL | MINDSET COACH
Are you working in the super yachting industry and struggling with bullying, harassment, and/or poor mental health? Yachties, you are not alone!
Mental Health Awareness in the Super Yachting Industry.
"The community needs to be more focused on their mental health. Many are struggling out there and feel they have nobody to turn to." - Alex Haubrich
I woke up every morning disoriented in the darkness of my claustrophobic cabin, drained after hours of tossing and turning the night before, and bathed in the kind of sweat only severe anxiety can give you.
Months of incessant bullying from the cook/stewardess of the private yacht I was working on was keeping me up at night. Her belittling comments, ranging from awful to blatantly illegal, rang often in my ears. “You know how you don’t like onions,” said the cook/stewardess, “well, you’re like an onion to me, and I don’t like you!”
I pride myself in being a go-getter and always maintaining a positive attitude and strong mindset despite being a greenie, but even the happiest of individuals feel the drag of the anchor at times.
Every time I asked a question, I was ridiculed for not knowing the answer. Whenever I made a mistake due to improper instruction, I was yelled at. I felt like my mind was in a constant battle, switching between generator and shore power, causing a series of blackouts. “You can jump off the bow and swim away for all I care!” When she spoke to me this way, I felt tension in my chest as my heart began beating faster and a lump would sit painfully in my throat, as if I had just swallowed and choked on the pit of a fruit. My complaints to the captain were met with indifference. I had no choice but to let go of the bow line and resign from my position as a deck/stew. The day I walked off the passerail and became FUNemployed, was the day I decided my mental health became my priority.
"Feeling on edge, excessive worry, mind blanks and confusion" are some of the psychological symptoms of anxiety according to The Crew Coach (2009)
Besides being illegal, workplace harassment can impact your mental health, which makes living and working in the same confined spaces tough. Today, I want to raise awareness and bring change within our community. This old-school mentality centred around “mental health talk being for the weak” and the normalizing of abusive behaviour in yachting culture needs to be eliminated immediately.
If Your Vessel Is A Place Where Worker Abuse is Rampant
It’s not always easy for individuals to leave toxic work environments. We need to encourage one another to stand up and speak up for ourselves when things are going south. Are you or any of your crew members currently in a position that is making you or them feel anxious, depressed and even unsafe? If so, then it is time to break the anchor chain of stigma surrounding “talking about feelings”, and start using all of the support systems available to you.
Friends, Family and Colleagues
I reached out to close friends and family, and individuals who have experienced similar situations in the industry for advice. Speaking with others can help with the kind of isolation that workplace harassment breeds.
Breaking the silence around this kind of toxic workplace culture and building community with others who can support you is essential. The Facebook group “Yacht Crew - That’s Not Okay," created by three yachties named Nathan, Matteo and Shereen, aims to “raise awareness of unsafe and destructive practices in the yachting industry so we can all benefit from greater wellbeing and better onboard conditions.” Here, yachties can find a safe space to discuss their work environments via the private message function and get advice on what to do next.
Make use of The Crew Coach Mental Health Handbook created by Karine Rayson for signs and symptoms of suicide, depression and anxiety. This handbook also provides you with anxiety management strategies, an outline of a mental health first aid plan, an action plan for how you can help fellow crew, recognizing and understanding assault in the workplace and support systems you can use.
Check out the Life is for the Living event which took place in Palma a couple of months ago. Keep an eye out on Facebook yachting groups for more events like this that offer support and raise awareness for mental health issues in the yachting industry.
Get Legal Support
Nautilus is a Yachting Union you can file a formal complaint with. Nautilus will follow up with the captain, management company and owner. Check out their 'Who can support you' album for more details.
Yachties, remember that we are all human beings who deal with negative situations differently. "Just bite the bullet and tough it out!" is not the best advice. I'm not a licenced counsellor, but I do have a psychology degree. The reality is if you are not feeling your best mentally or emotionally, you can’t perform to your best ability at work.
Let’s stop the shame surrounding mental health. Instead, let’s spread awareness in order to make the yachting industry a safer and better place.
Karina Greco is an avid kiteboarder, water sports enthusiast, adrenaline and fitness junkie and full-time traveler. A few years ago, she decided to give up her career as a teacher to become a deckhand in the super yacht industry. She has a passion for spreading positivity and optimism through her writing, by sharing her life experiences and connecting with individuals who want to maximize their personal growth.
MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE WITHIN THE SUPERYACHT INDUSTRY (MY TWO-CENTS) - The Black Sheep Talks