The Sea Sanctuary takes mental health services overseas

For many, being near the ocean offers a sense of relief, a reminder of something bigger than themselves. Like the existence of the universe, it can be comforting to remember that we humans are small and so are our problems.

For others, the ocean is a scary place. More than 90 percent of it remains unexplored, with the secrets of its strangest inhabitants still hidden in the depths. Yet facing them can be a huge and important way to overcome fears and build confidence.

“As a society, we have forgotten to appreciate the things that amaze and amaze us,” says Joe Sabien, founder of The Sea Sanctuary.

He continues: “People have lost the ability to communicate authentically about what is really going on with them. When people lack meaning and purpose in their lives, they lack hope.

Each year, approximately 500 people venture aboard The Sea Sanctuary’s fleet after being referred by a medical professional or after applying online via word of mouth recommendations. They’ll have the chance to learn how to hoist the sails, properly trim the ropes and scrub the deck – or just enjoy the ride.

Everything is voluntary.

One-on-one chats with professional therapists are also regularly available, along with formal group therapy aimed at helping everyone on board make meaningful connections.

“There is more to life than costs, balance sheets and results. What our society needs is tenderness, gentleness and compassion. Without it, authentic care will take a back seat,” says Founder Joe Sabien.

Joe Sabien

“For a lot of people, we’re the last resort saloon after all they’ve been through and all other treatments have failed,” Sabien says. “The bravery of these people who are already sick to come and spend days at sea with complete strangers.”

Joe Sabien says not everyone who joins is comfortable being at sea either.

“I saw people feeling sick with anxiety about coming, but they showed up anyway because they didn’t want to give up even when others had given up on them. We will certainly never give them up either.

Perhaps most importantly, The Sea Sanctuary team doesn’t deny the complexities of mental health. They are acutely aware that the four-day length of their journey along the coast cannot be called a solution to complex trauma, nor does it suggest that it can be.

Instead, the hope is that the experience of working together in nature will encourage people to regain confidence and recognize that their experiences are not isolated.

“Being on or in the sea brings you back to that visceral primal level. It helps you relearn how to feel and find your balance. You learn to really be in the moment and come face to face with yourself,” says Jo “It’s a powerful thing.”

If you want to learn more about the work of the Sea Sanctuary charity, visit their website here.

Sherry J. Basler