Former Crew Members Start A Crew Support And Wellness Foundation

Jul 25, 2021

Last year while many people were experiencing their own repercussions of a worldwide pandemic, Krista Thomas and Thais Marques de Souza were focused on an issue that the cruise industry was facing. Crew were stranded at sea as the world shut down its borders and although they were mainly safe onboard, their mental health became a key focus for the social media advocates. Today, Thomas and Marques de Souza are the founders of the not-for-profit organization, Sea Me Crew Wellness Foundation.

“As soon as I heard that passengers were being repatriated, my mind went to the crew. When would they go home, and what would happen to them and their jobs when there were no guests left to service?”, Thomas told us. “I remember life at sea fondly in many ways. However, it does have its systemic challenges and I couldn’t help but wonder how crew would be impacted. I started a Facebook group simply to share updates, but the longer that crew were stuck for, the more it evolved into a help desk style platform. Hundreds of crew members started reaching out. That is when Thais reached out to me and offered to help. She was equally as passionate and concerned about the crew, so we spent countless nights fostering relationships with union reps, ITF inspectors, corporate contacts and even government contacts in various countries. All that we wanted to do was help advocate to bring crew home. Where we couldn’t, we wanted them to know that they were not alone.”

The duo was able to help several crew members to return home, or to gain access to medical and mental health support resources. However, once the majority of crew members had been repatriated, the Sea Me duo’s work still wasn’t done.

“Crew kept reaching out about other queries or simply wanting someone to talk to. We recognized that we had built a trusted platform, so why take it away? We decided to keep building on it,” Thomas said.

Federally incorporated in Canada, and doing business as “Sea Me”, the foundation offers its members access to free counseling via Better Help, an online platform of licensed therapists from over 40 nationalities. They are also currently developing a training program that will focus on closing the gap between cultures, embracing diversity, and managing up. And later this summer, the group will begin peer led support groups where crew can use apps such as Clubhouse, Instagram Live and Facebook Rooms to share their experiences.

Is this an attack on an industry that is trying to recover from a major setback? Thomas says no. 

“The topics that we approach are going to be controversial. Yet, we support the industry in that hundreds of thousands of crewmembers rely on it. And there hasn’t been much success in the past, with similar welfare groups trying to change the culture onboard. Therefore, we remain focused on ensuring that crew have support options that are not affiliated with or paid for by their companies. We hope that the industry wants to listen. We have a massive following in some of our other social media groups that we work with, and we have the lived experiences. So far, the industry has not shown much reception to social media advocacy or to the other psychology-based providers that we know have approached them. Someone with enough influence will hear this and can help foster positive change. That person has to be out there. In the meantime, we have the support of a maritime law firm for anyone who needs legal aid, and we want crew to feel comfortable asking for counseling or support services from the foundation.”

Recently, the foundation launched an awareness video of stories shared by crew members who experienced sexual harassment or assault at sea. Sea Me will continue to focus on this critical topic and also plans to address other common challenges onboard in the months ahead. So far, crew are welcoming the platform with comments such as, “I am so grateful that someone is finally doing this” and “Thank you for being brave enough to talk about these things, we need this”, another wrote. Crew are invited to join the private Facebook group as well. 

Sea Me Crew Wellness Foundation memberships are free to crew members and to some former crew members and they are also inviting sponsors and donors to support their cause with donations.

Donations can be made through their website or by getting in contact with Sea Me at

Thomas concluded, “We want to work with other welfare organizations and even with the companies if they want to hear from us. Until then, we will continue to advocate for those who feel that they cannot, and sometimes that may ruffle feathers. The tough topics wouldn’t be so tough if people felt comfortable talking about them. And until we do, the companies themselves may not even understand the issues taking place at the onboard level. The hierarchy, abuse of power, the favoritism, the discrimination – this is very real and very common. That isn’t to say that some of the companies are not doing a better job than others, nor to suggest that there aren’t any good leaders out at sea. In fact, I am inspired knowing that many of the leaders that I met along the way are the type of mentors that can help drive this change. We just need more alignment to do so. This is about bringing awareness to the safety and mental wellness of a demographic of workers that have been overlooked for too long”.