Mental Health Awareness Week: Sail training improves wellbeing, survey finds

To mark national Mental Health Awareness Week, ASTO (Association of Sail Training Organisations) is highlighting how UK Sail Training operators have improved mental health and wellbeing across communities in the wake of the pandemic.

Sail Training uses the experience of sailing to teach young and disabled people key life skills such as confidence and teamwork. It also creates respite opportunities for people, allowing them to take a break from their everyday life and experience something challenging and exciting.

In a recent survey conducted by ASTO, 97 per cent of sailing trainees said by the end of their voyage they enjoyed working with other people, and 98 per cent said that they were better able to understand how other people think and feel.

Activities like working as a team, pulling ropes, steering the boat and even cooking are all powerful tools for improving socialisation skills and creating opportunities for people to better connect with others.

“After more than two years of anxiety and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, more young people than ever are coming to us having experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation, meaning the work that our UK Sail Training members do is now more important than ever,” says Lucy Grodie, ASTO’s general manager. “Sail Training is well placed to help mitigate some of the problems caused by lockdowns, isolation, and other missed opportunities for developing key socialisation skills.”

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week initiative, led by the Mental Health Foundation, focuses on the impact of loneliness on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

“Being out on the water, away from distractions like mobile phones and the internet, provides opportunities for people to open up to others on board and form more meaningful connections with those around them,” adds Grodie. “These experiences, and the skills that are developed on a Sail Training voyage, stay with people long after their trip is over and can be transferred into other aspects of their home life, schoolwork, and employment.”

As well as helping to combat the impact of loneliness and isolation, Sail Training can improve mental wellbeing by increasing feelings of self-worth and accomplishment, whilst encouraging people to become more physically active. This aids in the release of endorphins, such as dopamine and serotonin, which is proven to further boost mental health and wellbeing.

Each year, more than 30 UK Sail Training member organisations take around 10,000 young people to sea. Those that take part in day sails and longer residential voyages include individuals, school and youth groups, and specialist mental health referral groups, among others.

Images courtesy of ASTO/ Max Mudie.

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