Now yachts have access to a maritime assistance program that has long helped cruise workers and commercial seafarers deal with the downsides of life at sea.
A workplace, a social microcosm, a home away from home — a yacht is all three things in one to its crew. Add in the long work hours, remote travel, and extended time spent far from friends and family, and it’s not hard to see the mental health toll such a lifestyle might take.
Maybe you have feelings of isolation, anxiety or depression. Maybe a crewmate is exhibiting unusual behavior or has confided a need for emotional support.
Vikand, a global maritime medical services provider, wants to help. With the recent expansion of its Maritime Assistance Program (MAP) into the yachting sector, there’s now a mental health hotline standing by 24/7 with a highly qualified shore-side team ready and able to help.
Vikand says its program is different from others in that its support team of healthcare professionals, including nurses and psychologists, have direct experience in the maritime industry. Many have worked on board themselves and/or acted as consultants for international maritime organizations, so they are able to connect with crew on a deeper level and prescribe tailored techniques to improve a crew member’s mental state while on board.
“The way it is today,” said Vikand CEO Peter Hult, “you have access to a healthline that you normally engage with only in a really bad situation.”
Instead, he said, Vikand wants to create a culture of mind-body wellness in which crew feel supported and able to engage with mental health professionals as needed. The idea is to avoid those emergency calls about somebody attempting suicide, or threatening to harm others or do damage to the boat.
“We don’t see mental wellness as a standalone issue,” Hult said. “We see mental wellness as part of your overall wellness.”
And the key is early intervention. According to Hult, proactive healthcare support — whether physical or mental — reduces serious onboard medical conditions by 75%, as well as their associated costs, such as emergency medical evacuations.
The maritime industry — whether commercial, cruise, yachting, or fishing — needs to stop viewing healthcare as a cost but rather as an investment to keep its workforce fit and healthy, Hult said.
Even though captains are quick to agree that the crew is a yacht’s most important asset, most will admit that they have asset management plans in place for the engine, the radar, etc. — but not for the crew. As a strategy, crew asset management has a valuable return on investment, he said.
MAP works in three ways:
>> Training: Educational materials are provided initially to help crew identify when a crewmate needs support so that early intervention is possible.
>> Connection: Crew members speak directly with the MAP team so individual needs are understood and assessments can be made on how to best move forward. For more serious concerns, ongoing support with one of the team’s certified maritime psychologists is available.
>> Follow-up: One-on-one meetings are scheduled monthly to go over the progress that has been made since initial contact and to address any new mental wellness concerns.
Rather than a phone call, the MAP hotline works via video on an app that is accessible anywhere that crew have WiFi. Calls are 100% confidential and adhere to HIPAA and GDPR laws. Hult said the agreement Vikand has with yacht owners, captains and management companies acknowledges that captains have the right to know about medical issues happening on board, but Vikand will only report medical conditions that can have a significant impact on vessel operation or the safety and wellness of others.
Find out more at vikand.com.