Crew Coach: by Capt. Rob Gannon
We all need from time to time throughout our lives a person we can turn to when things get tough. That person can be of great value simply by being there when called upon. Sometimes that person might literally be a lifesaver. Perhaps you are that person for someone else, or maybe you are in need of such a person and searching. A trusted source is a gift. Having one is pure gold.
These can be challenging times – heck, all of history is filled with challenging times – and when it gets messy and hard, it is rough to go it alone. In the yachting world, young and not-so-young people are out there and away from family and loved ones. Who does one turn to when the difficulties and loneliness start to overwhelm? Sometimes it difficult to reach faraway loved ones. If so, having a trusted source nearby can help tremendously.
Maybe it’s a fellow crew, or a crew of another vessel who has been befriended and is now trusted. But whoever our trusted person is, we have got to reach out to them when we feel the need to. Carrying too much weight, too much negativity and emotional stress, will take its toll. We can’t do that to ourselves.
Talking things over with that trusted source can lift some of the weight, or at least make it a little easier to carry. Too much emotional heavy lifting on a regular basis will wear anyone down. Some can withstand more than others. Some can’t deal as well, and when they suddenly feel the full effects, it can be crippling. This is when others have to take notice.
Look out for each other. If you notice someone hurting or struggling, reach out and offer to be that trusted source. But when you do, take care in that role. We are not there to fix them or make them see things our way; we are there just to listen and be a secure and compassionate voice of reason. We also don’t want to go beyond our expertise. Sometimes we have to leave things to mental health professionals. It doesn’t take a professional, though, to show compassion and understanding.
There have been disturbing stories in the past few years of crew taking their own lives. It’s so sad that it got to that place for them, and for all who knew and cared for them. I realize that sometimes there are no obvious signs, and everyone is shocked and devastated. Maybe there were some cases in which this tragic outcome could not have been prevented, but then maybe there were some cases in which it could have.
The causes can be complex. But they can also be straightforward, like someone just feeling alone and overwhelmed and incredibly sad. Maybe, just maybe, a trusted source was all that was needed. Just being there and letting a person be heard can’t really make things worse, but it can sure make things a little better.
This issue certainly calls for awareness. Hopefully, it is being discussed among crews worldwide. Perhaps it could be helpful if crew were given contact information for mental health support before it’s needed, just in case. We may be able to save one suffering soul, and that is huge.
I know it’s a pretty heavy subject and I usually like to write with a lighter tone, but this was on my mind after reading Dorie Cox’s excellent reporting of this subject in The Triton. So, look out for one another, savor every day and be well.
Enjoy the voyage.
Capt. Rob Gannon is a 30-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach (yachtcrewcoach.com). Comments are welcome below.