Helping seafarers to help themselves

The Mission’s WeCare e-learning modules aid financial and social wellbeing

By Verity Relph

At a time when mental wellbeing is more of an issue than ever for seafarers, one of the many questions faced by the industry has been how to continue to provide support and training when face-to-face contact is no longer possible. One way in which The Mission to Seafarers decided to embrace this challenge was through the launch of e-learning versions of its WeCare educational courses.

Launched in Spring 2021, the two sixty-minute courses aim to help seafarers cope with concerns from home that can affect their mental wellbeing while at sea. The first course, Social Wellbeing, is about helping seafarers and their families communicate in a safe and meaningful way during long periods of time apart. Financial Wellbeing, meanwhile, seeks to empower seafarers to feel in control of their day-to-day finances, taking them through coping strategies and helping remove the strain that money issues can often cause.

Thomas O’Hare, project manager at the Mission to Seafarers, sees many advantages to the introduction of digital learning for the programme: “A great aspect of the e-learning format is that it removes the logistical constraints of in-person workshops, enabling much greater numbers of seafarers to take the courses. It also has the added advantage that seafarers can access the resources at their own pace or when they are feeling alone and vulnerable on ship.”

Thomas is keen to point out that the courses are not for the benefit of seafarers alone. “If a chaplain or ship visitor understands what a communication plan is or how to put together a budget or savings plan, they are in a much better position to promote and share knowledge when they are ship visiting. The courses firstly educate and secondly, they allow welfare personnel to share the learning with seafarers.”

Michelle DePooter is someone who found the courses very pertinent for her role as lead chaplain for The Ministry to Seafarers of the CRC in Montreal: “I have been a seafarers’ chaplain for 21 years and have been looking for resources like this for quite a while. Many resources are intended for people who work in ‘normal’ jobs and don’t speak to the unique situation of seafarers who are often supporting multiple family members. There are some situations, such as how to navigate requests from family and friends for assistance, that many of us based ashore wouldn’t necessarily have to deal with on any regular basis”.

A comprehensive approach

As well as sharing the learning, chaplains can signpost seafarers to the On Board Mental Health Champions resources, which are available for free to all seafarers (see ‘A relatable mental health programme’, page 7). The videos and downloads provide the foundation stone for further learning. “The resources are the first step for seafarers in understanding what wellbeing means to them before they go on to do the e-learning courses,” explains Thomas.

It is then up to companies to step in: “Seafarers can then ask their employers how they can access WeCare e-learning. This is the shift from pastoral support to employers taking responsibility to invest in their crew.”

Once seafarers have completed the course via their on board learning management system, the Mission’s global network of chaplains are on hand to offer additional support if needed. Crews therefore have access to a comprehensive support network, with space for discussion both before and after the course.

Michelle sees particular value in helping seafarers work through some of the issues around finances and communication themselves: “It is always better for someone to work through situations and learn how to navigate through them themselves, rather than an outside person coming in and telling them what they should do.”

E-learning also puts emphasis on sharing between seafarers, either as a group or at a one-to-one level. As Thomas reflects, “the WeCare e-learning courses are not only about educating and providing support to seafarers, but also creating advocates for WeCare who will share knowledge and learning in social and financial wellbeing. This can in turn help others to feel empowered and able to thrive in their work and relationships.”

To access the On Board Mental Health Champions resources, go to YouTube or visit To access e-learning, please speak to a member of your training department, or ask them to contact [email protected].