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Testing the powers of the sea

The sea has long been recognised for its mysterious healing powers with seaside resorts all the rage in Victorian times, writes Michael Troy at the ABC.

A few years ago my brother fell ill with a severe mental illness. I reasoned if the sea could calm itself, maybe it could help calm his mind.

During a storm we walked to a cliff top and watched the waves smash onto the rocks below. Breathing in the salt rich spray we felt rejuvenated.

Why sea air and sea water might have helped is still a mystery, but it’s a treatment long forgotten in the era of modern medicine.

I persuaded my sceptical brother to spend some more time out on the water and we kayaked across Sydney Heads.

Unfortunately, he tipped over in a rough section and I had to rescue him, and he was terrified the sharks would get him.

He wanted to retreat to the safety of the land but the next week I coaxed him onto a much bigger boat, and we sailed out to sea and spent a few nights on board.

His mood had clearly changed and he said he felt like he had some strength now to face his invisible demons.

His doctor though didn’t share his new-found faith in this the sea and doubled his dose of anti-depressants and prescribed a potent anti-psychotic to help him sleep.

I couldn’t get any scientists to test my theory, mainly because of lack of research funding.

One suggested I do my own qualitative study so I wrote an article about my old fashioned “sea-cure” in a mental health publication and about 20 people jumped at the chance to take part in some trials.

The author

Michael Troy is a Eureka Science Prize-winning journalist and is in the process of setting up a charity in Sydney on the lines of Sea Sanctuary in the UK. This article was originally published in AFLOAT magazine.


Out of the blue: The healing power of the sea (ABC News)