In the glamorous world of superyachts, where luxury and splendour are standard, there lies a hard reality faced by crew members both above and below deck. Captain Kelly Gordon, at the helm of the Pershing 108 superyacht ANDIAMO II, offers a candid insight into the multifaceted challenges that impact crew mental health and wellbeing. Here she delves into the prevailing issues, potential solutions and the crucial role of industry stakeholders in creating a supportive environment.
“This fast-paced environment dictates that we put on a happy face at all times, even when we’re not feeling it. We don’t always get the chance to process our emotions,” Kelly reflects, highlighting the underlying pressure for constant positivity on board superyachts. In her eyes, the isolation from loved ones and unfamiliar surroundings can lead to a sense of loneliness that often goes unnoticed amidst the glitz and glamour. She emphasises, “Yes, we have amazing jobs, but we give up and miss out on a lot, too.”
As a captain, Kelly acknowledges that certain issues she has observed are all too common in the industry. “To me, some of the most prevalent crew issues are drug and alcohol abuse, sexual harassment and bullying,” she states candidly. Her frankness underlines the urgent need for a comprehensive approach to tackle these problems head-on. She believes that captains and managers hold the key to transformative change. “Captains and managers have the responsibility to teach owners how to properly care for their crew,” she highlights. From her point of view, captains need to be advocates for their crew, educating them and staying connected both on and off the vessel. She adds, “If you asked me to narrow it down to just one route, it’d be the captain.”
Discussing recent developments in the industry, there is some progress, “Mental Health First Aid is becoming a thing and crew are actually training and taking courses in this”, she exclaims. Kelly questions why mental health isn’t treated with the same urgency as physical health, highlighting the importance of MHFA but also welcomes resources such as The Crew Coach, ISWAN and Seas the Mind, which provide counselling services, workshops and hotlines. In addition, The Yacht Stew Academy is revolutionising the superyacht industry. By redefining and reshaping the way stews and stewardesses lead, it ensures that their leadership skills have a positive impact on the overall wellness of the interior crew.
Passion shines through as she outlines tangible areas where improvement can be directed. “MHFA courses, better accommodations, onboard exercise facilities, work/life balance attention, counselling access and personal development – these can make a world of difference,” she states fervently. Kelly’s vision is clear: a space where crew members feel valued and supported. “Superyacht Fitness is off to a great start in making a stand for crew health and wellbeing. They provide some unique resources covering several avenues of concern,” Gordon remarks. This initiative goes beyond typical gym activities, focusing on crew mental health and welfare solutions in a proactive manner.
“To me, and what I have done, is just speak out, it’s a simple step, but hard as hell,” she confesses, underscoring the profound impact of a single voice and a willingness to share struggles. Her voice gains strength as she recounts a story of a crew member who found the courage to speak out against harassment due to her influence, showcasing the transformative potential of individual action.
Her message to those in a position of influence is straightforward: “Stakeholders can help shape the future of our health and well-being by asking us what we need, listening and then working to provide it.” These words highlight the importance of genuine engagement and empathy. In her view it is clear that industry stakeholders can play a pivotal role by actively involving crew members in shaping a much brighter future.
Captain Kelly Gordon’s insights provide a sobering reminder that the wellbeing of superyacht crew members is an imperative that demands immediate attention. By acknowledging the challenges, engaging in meaningful initiatives and developing a culture of empathy and support, the superyacht industry can move towards positive and holistic wellbeing for all its members.