WHAT IS BOAT SAILING THERAPY?
This is a type of therapy for mentally ill patients that mainly involves sailing or learning to sail. The aim is to rehabilitate the patients in a relaxing marine environment or in custom boat docks while engaging them in the physical activity of sailing. This method views sailing as a sport.
Sport activities have often been used as tools for rehabilitating patients with mental disorders. These activities can aid the patients’ rehabilitation in the following ways:
a) Improving their self-esteem and self-confidence.
b) Enhancing group participation skills.
c) Improving their communication skills.
- Improving self-confidence.
Mental illness, especially if it occurs at a young age, deprives an individual of normal life experiences. This may lead to a state of depression and a poor opinion of oneself. Showing such an individual that there is an experience that they can still engage in in spite of their illness can improve their self-esteem greatly.
Boat sailing therapy involves activities such as learning how to use boat equipment (for example hydrophones) and identifying sea life. If a patient learns how to perform these activities and then performs them in front of an expert and other patients, it can greatly improve their self-esteem and give them a sense of belonging.
The sea provides a different environment than the what the patients are used to. It gives them a sense of freedom in a new environment that has different sounds (waves and marine animals) and sights. The environment may also provide a calming effect on the patients.
This experience can help patients stand up to society; something they may not have previously been able to do before due to a lack of self-confidence. It helps them cope with their condition effectively.
- Improving group participation.
Mentally ill people are often ostracized in society. They often face stigma from people and thus they may not get invited to community activities such as community clean up exercises. Due to this participating and working as a group may be a phenomenon that is alien to the patient.
Sailing is largely a group activity. Sailing will require patients to work as a group together with experts towards a common goal. for example, hanging the sail. Combating difficult situations such as bad weather under the guidance of sailing experts and achieving success as a group will help improve the patients’ confidence as well as improve their understanding of group dynamics.
Working as a group may help the patient appreciate the benefits of working as a group. It will help the patient understand that some challenges are tackled best as a group.
- Improving communication skills.
In order to conduct successful group activities there must be proper communication among group members. Communication is a skill that may be inhibited in patients with mental illness. They may be afraid to communicate due to fear of stigmatization.
Boat sailing therapy helps in combating communication barriers. It puts patients in situations where they must communicate in order to combat certain challenges or achieve certain objectives.
Boat sailing therapy also entails group meetings where patients discuss their experiences and how they are coping with life at sea. These sessions are avenues in which patients can learn how to communicate better.
- Improving awareness of body functions.
Due to their conditions, most mentally ill patients do not engage in physical activities. They have not had the opportunity to push their bodies to the limit. This may be due to lack of self-confidence or due to fear of stigmatization.
Boat sailing therapy entails some physical activity. Engaging in these physical activities will help the patients understand the limits of their respective bodies and it may also help them push their limits. It will help them use their bodies in ways they may have never experienced before. This will also improve their self-confidence and self-esteem.
Boat sailing therapy is relatively new and is not widely used. However, it is a successful form of therapy. Mental health programs such as the Genoa and Trieste Mental health programs are so successful and have gained so much popularity such that they participate in international boat races.
This is a method that has shown promising results and a method which should be favorable to most mentally ill patients.