Mental health and the impact of abuse highlighted as key concerns for yacht crew in annual helpline report from ISWAN

July 10, 2023
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In the first annual report of data from Yacht Crew Help, ISWAN’s specialist helpline for the yachting industry, psychological challenges and the impact of abuse, bullying, harassment and discrimination emerge as key issues facing yachting crew, with women disproportionately affected.

The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) launched its Yacht Crew Help service in November 2020, in order to provide accessible, specialised support to help those working in the yachting industry to cope with the unique challenges of life at sea. Yacht Crew Help is a free, multilingual, 24/7/365 service operated by a team of helpline officers with broad-ranging experience of providing emotional support and practical guidance. Demand for the service has continued to grow, with Yacht Crew Help supporting 300 crew members from at least 42 different nationalities in 2022, up by 31.0% year-on-year.

Mental health difficulties were the most frequently raised issue, accounting for 16.6% of all issues raised and for 19.1% of those raised by women. Yacht crew who contacted the helpline frequently talked about the impact on their mental health of long working hours, lack of sleep, the impact of alcohol or drugs onboard or difficulty fitting into the crew culture.

However, ISWAN’s helpline data suggests that experiences of abuse, bullying, harassment or discrimination (ABHD) are collectively the issue that has the greatest impact on the mental health of yacht crew. Almost a quarter (24.3%) of yacht crew who contacted Yacht Crew Help in 2022 in relation to mental health challenges also raised an experience of some form of abuse. Overall, experiences of ABHD accounted for 9.2% of all issues raised, in comparison to 3.0% of issues raised to SeafarerHelp, ISWAN’s long-established helpline for all seafarers across the maritime sector and their families. Contacts relating to ABHD increased by 81.3% on the 2021 level.

Amongst women, experiences of abuse accounted for 13.5% of issues raised to Yacht Crew Help, as opposed to 5.8% of issues raised by men. In many cases, yacht crew contacted the helpline for support to cope with bullying, aggression and at times assault, frequently by more senior crew members. Amongst women yacht crew, half of all ABHD-related contacts involved sexual abuse or harassment.

The high proportion of calls and messages to Yacht Crew Help relating to contractual issues, in particular unpaid wages or unfair dismissal, is another key trend in the data released by ISWAN. Overall, just over a quarter (25.4%) of contacts related to some form of contractual issue, with the number of contacts about contractual problems increasing by 14.1% on the 2021 level. The most prevalent contractual issue was unpaid wages, which accounted for 12.1% of all helpline contacts.

Georgia Allen, ISWAN’s project manager for Yacht Crew Help, said: ‘Through our wide-ranging conversations with yacht crew over the past two years, ISWAN has developed unique insights into the difficulties that many crew who work in the yachting industry face. Data from the first two years of Yacht Crew Help demonstrate the urgent need to take action to build psychologically healthy cultures onboard yachts to ensure that all yacht crew have working environments in which they feel safe. ISWAN is committed to raising awareness about the key issues and trends affecting yacht crew and to working effectively in partnership with the industry to develop potential solutions.’

Yacht Crew Help 2022 – a year in data can be downloaded below.

Yacht Crew Help 2022 - a year in data

The first annual report of data from ISWAN's Yacht Crew Help helpline, highlighting the key issues facing yacht crew in 2022.


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