Dive Training Blogs
Jump into… Mental Health and Diving
So, despite this being the longest blog post in the series, this is a subject that has been on my mind to write about for a while, and there was never going to be a ‘perfect time’, so here goes…
Having considered doing this for a while, my main concern was at first the ‘embarrassment’, and then my personal feelings of not making my personal life public. The more I thought about it though, how will things ever change if we are too afraid to talk and make others aware that they are not alone?
Having been in the dive industry for a number of years now, like many others I have been faced with the relentless disparaging comments, and bullying from some individuals. Entering the industry as a young, 21 year old female – what could I possibly have to offer in the industry? ‘No life experience’ and could not possibly have a ‘grown up attitude’ at that age. The fact is, we never know the past history of anyone.
At 15, my dad passed away. He ‘committed’ suicide; I have always hated that term as it seems as though an offence has been made. At the time, I was embarrassed about what had happened. Mental health was not as spoken of, and when asked what happened, I would just say he was in an accident. Over the years I realised that I had no reason to be embarrassed, and it was completely ridiculous and offensive to his memory that I was doing this. At this age, I quickly grew up. I learnt that nothing was to be taken for granted. By the age of 21, I had already been in the Fire Service for 3 years, a disciplined service, being faced with life or death decisions on a regular basis and at the same time, had been teaching for 2 years as an instructor, I then started Duttons Divers. At the age of 21, I already had a fair bit of ‘life experience’.
The reason for the brief backstory, and trust me, it is very brief, is that following this came the bullying in the industry. Up to this point I could manage what had been thrown at me. When I made the decision to take on Vivian Quarry, I was met with day to day comments of ‘what do you know, you won’t last 2 seconds in the industry’…. Mocking messages about courses that I had ran, comments made to my customers saying that I didn’t know what I was doing and that they should come to them, and relentless comments of how poor I was at conducting myself in the industry. These comments started to drive me down. I began to focus on every small negative, that I forgot everything that I had achieved: Becoming a Course Director, having a successful business, a career outside of diving that at the time I enjoyed, the house and car I wanted, but none of that seemed to matter.
Those comments at the time were my breaking point, and I began to feel like there was no way forward. I had no drive to get myself out of the dark hole that had been created by these people – some that I didn’t even know. It took me a while to come to realise that the people who I was letting do this had literally no bearing on what I was doing. Nothing had changed; the business was still successful and growing; I did not need them. I found it easier to ignore the comments (still a mistake); I contacted a local mental health charity for support, which as the time I was highly embarrassed about, but now could not care less. It took me 4 years to get to a point where I felt strong enough and in the right mind set to challenge the behaviour and take action.
So I know that this very brief post isn’t exactly the happiest that I have ever written. But it is a period in my life that I think it is more than necessary to talk about. The amount of messages that I have received from others now speaking out about their own personal experiences of bullying in the industry… all because of one post. I could have spoken about this years ago, and I have no doubt that others in the industry have their own stories to tell… so tell them. There’s no reason to hide them away, and it could mean the world of difference to someone else and help us to put an end to this type of behaviour in the industry. Those that are ignorant to other’s past experiences, and make judgement that they know better, have no idea what any person has gone through.
It’s clear that as an industry we have tolerated bullying, whether this be on social media, the “inter-agency banter” or between dive centres and clubs. The fact is that none of it is acceptable and it will only be made unacceptable if it is challenged. The fact that someone is from another agency doesn’t mean that it is acceptable to call them names. When someone wears their equipment in a way different to yours, it doesn’t warrant a comment that what they are doing is wrong and highlighting it to use it for your own personal gain all over social media. No negative comments are necessary. These types of situations don’t make derogatory responses acceptable.
In diving we are in an amazing industry that allows us to dive with people from all walks of life, people that we would probably never be in the same room together with if it wasn’t for diving… and it doesn’t matter what someones background is, who they dive with, what equipment or brand that they use; it has no impact on your life what they do and bullying anyone is in no way acceptable. So my advice is that as a whole we challenge this behaviour, report those responsible and we can all work together to show that this type of behaviour will no longer be tolerated.
Remember – You are always welcome to call into either of my centres for a brew, chat or dive!
Clare began Duttons Divers at just 19 years old and a short while later became one of the world’s youngest PADI Course Directors. Find out more at www.duttonsdivers.com
Dive Training Blogs
Divers making the Oceans more diverse
Arguably, diving is the most inclusive sport in the world. At the time of writing this, PADI professionals teach, lead and support diving in 185+ countries and territories, and by best estimate, more than 90% of people have access to dive instruction in a first and/or second language.
PADI is on a mission to create a billion torchbearers to unify for a collective purpose to create positive ocean change. Supporting this is PADI’s Pillars of Change and a collective effort in fostering diversity and inclusion in the dive industry and supporting local communities.
As PADI CEO and President Drew Richardson says:
“Diving is a unifying force that bridges cultures through a common passion, purpose and language. Our interpersonal contact and shared experiences promote understanding and reduce prejudice, making diving a unifying force across national and regional boundaries and differing values – something that the world badly needs”
PADI is committed to delving into diversity, including what it means to be black in the diving world, today – and every day. Several PADI AmbassaDivers and PADI Professionals guide us through these conversations – and are blazing a path for new explorers, scientists, advocates and ocean change makers.
From around the world, each has had a different experience breaking through barriers, challenging cultural “norms”, and paving a new path as a purpose-driven diver and ocean ambassador. Their stories both inspire us, regardless of our race, and help us understand and reconcile with painful truths from the past. Additionally, they offer suggestions on how we can support BIPOC and underrepresented communities.
7 PADI Divers making the Oceans more inclusive
1. The Black Mermaid: Zandile Ndhlovu
Zandile Ndhlovu is PADI Freediving Instructor, PADI Mermaid and the founder of The Black Mermaid Foundation, an organization seeking to create diverse representation in the ocean arena. Zandile’s work centers around creating the first encounter that exposes the youth to the ocean. As an ocean conservationist, diversity and inclusion specialist, and avid speaker and storyteller, she uses these skills to advocate for diversely represented and inclusive oceans while working to reshape incomplete narratives.
“I’ve always loved nature… and have journeyed her differently at different times. When I found Freediving, I knew I wanted to go all the way with it! Black Mermaid is where I found solace in this journey. Being the first Black African PADI Instructor in South Africa, I’m determined to share my passion for the ocean with the world and explore how our deepest beliefs about the deep ocean can coexist with Freediving and perhaps even bring us closer to the knowledge of self.
“I’m an advocate of wonder, exploration and awe – beginning with self. I’ve always dreamt of making a positive impact in the lives of others, and am made happiest when inspiring, motivating and challenging people from all different backgrounds by simply being. With a strategic approach combined with an outside-the-box perspective, Black Mermaid helps people break through barriers and challenges, overcome doubts and take a large stride towards achieving their goals.”
2. Using Education to Break Barriers: Dr. Nevada Winrow
Dr.Nevada Winrow is a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine-trained pediatric neuropsychologist, PADI Master Scuba Diver, and founder of Black Girls Dive Foundation. Her foundation runs a program that helps underserved and under-resourced girls learn to swim, scuba dive and participate in hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities.
Participants in Dr. Winrow’s program can earn PADI® Open Water Diver certifications during their first year. With each new semester, the girls can earn additional certifications such as Advanced Open Water and PADI Specialties. The goal is for each participant to earn their PADI Master Scuba Diver rating by the end of their time in the program – as well as having an educational foundation that gives them both high school and college credits.
“The purpose of our organization is to help young women develop their STEM identify, be nerdy and feel comfortable about it,” said Winrow. “We tell the girls, you can pursue any career you want, but we’re going to teach you how to think like a scientist.”
3. The Godfather of Black Scuba Diving: Dr Albert Jose Jones
Dr Albert José Jones is considered the godfather of Black scuba diving in the U.S. He founded the country’s oldest Black diving club, Underwater Adventure Seekers in Washington, D.C., in 1959, and co-founded the National Association of Black Scuba Divers, in 1991. Earning his certification in a Howard University Pool, he changed scuba diving forever. A diver, explorer and scientist, he opened the door for so many other black divers to explore the ocean as well as their own history.
After 51 years as an esteemed PADI Professional, Dr Albert Jose Jones has an impressive resume with accomplishments that many divers only dream of achieving. A lifelong marine educator and leader protecting our ocean, Dr Jones is a PADI Master Scuba Instructor with over 6,000 dives logged in 50 countries around the world. He has taught marine biology for over 25 years at the University of the District of Colombia and is a U.S Army Purple Heart Veteran, having learned diving while training in the army. He is also responsible for certifying over 2,000 divers, the majority of whom were children at the time.
When Dr Jones reflects back at his first breaths beneath the surface, he smiles and fondly recalls it being one of the most exciting times of his life. “I’ve always had a connection to the water and been a competent swimmer. So putting a tank on my back and getting to stay under for longer was an extremely powerful experience,” says Dr Jones.
Dr Jones was announced as the recipient of the 2022 NOGI Distinguished Service Award from the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences, an “oscar worthy” accolade that he says is one of the biggest honors of his entire career.
But topping the award, he says, is the fulfillment he gets teaching children in his community the art of confidence through scuba diving.
4. Diving to Research the Past and Our Future: Alannah Vellecot
Alannah Vellecot is a PADI AmbassaDiver from the Bahamas who is also a marine ecologist, science communicator and ocean advocate with 12 years of experience working in marine research, conservation and education. She’s led a variety of marine research and outreach projects that include sharks, conch, reef health, shipwreck mapping, and blue hole ethnography. She was also the principal diver in a 6-part documentary, ‘Enslaved’ starring Samuel L Jackson and Afua Hirsch, telling the untold stories of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade by diving shipwrecked slave ships around the world.
“I want to be a reflection for women and girls of color who dare to follow their passion and to remind the world that the ocean is their home too, ” she says.
5. Working for the Animals: Dr.Dayne Buddo
Dr. Dayne Buddo, born and raised in Jamaica grew up with a fear of the ocean – like so many others in his community. He overcame a fear of the ocean at age 20 to follow his passion.
Buddo went on to earn his PhD in Marine Sciences and is proud of all his accomplishments, especially being invited to address the UN on Ocean Conservation. He has become an extremely accomplished researcher, scientist and ocean change maker. He is a certified PADI Master Scuba Instructor who serves on the boards of The Ocean Foundation, Fisheries Development Management Fund, National Conservation Trust Fund Grant Committee and continues to support several delegations to major United Nations Conferences on climate change and ocean conservation. He is currently the Director of External Engagement at the Georgia Aquarium, where he is responsible for deepening Georgia Aquarium’s service ties to the community at the local, state, national and international levels to further their mission of ocean conservation. He adores working with local communities and seeing that spark on other children’s faces, when they realize they too belong to the ocean.
He also uses marine science to protect biodiversity on our blue planet and has designed extremely successful programs including working with local fishermen in Jamaica to address invasive species and overfishing.
“There is no point in science if it is not applied to solving problems, or better yet, avoiding issues that would negatively affect ocean health. Having everyone involved in solving a problem, especially local communities which are mostly impacted, is the key to the success.
“We are all connected ecologically to the ocean, so we must be connected in solving the issues… so get involved. Science does not only belong to scientists, as citizens who simply love the ocean, you can also do your part. There is no shortage of need, only a shortage of hands, so dive with a purpose in mind.”
6. Diversity Advocate for Diving: Dr. Tiara Moore
Dr. Tiara Moore is the founder of Black in Marine Science (BIMS), which she started after she realized she was the only black person on her marine science teams and was determined to change the stereotypes of who can dive.
“Programs like BIMS are also critical to help heal the “history and trauma of black people and water,” Moore shares. “Black people don’t want to jump into the water with millions of our ancestors literally at the bottom of the ocean… It’s like we’re to blame that we’re not there, but there are so many barriers and so much trauma”
Dr. Moore’s BIMS program is aimed at getting more PADI certified black divers and helping her community feel more confident and connected in the water.
7. Telling Stories of the Ocean: Xochitl Clare
Xochitl Clare is a PADI AmbassaDiver, marine biologist and performing artist who is dedicated to telling stories of the environment to inspire others in her community to connect with the ocean. As a first generation Latina Afriacan American, she uses her culture’s deep roots to storyrtelling to inspire aquatic dreams through books and media. As an equally accomplished ballroom daner, Xochitl is known as the dancing biologist.
“This work [of increasing diversity in diving] allows us to meet our history with the sea firsthand to contend with the past—to then charter a new future for African American communities in generations to come.”
Read more on the PADI Blog at HERE.
Dive Training Blogs
How Scuba Diving can help you overcome physical and mental challenges
This International Disabilities Day (December 3 2022) PADI is reminding the world of the healing aspects that the ocean (or any body of water) can provide us all and how important of a modality it is for helping those with physical or mental challenges improve their wellbeing. From simply being within close proximity of it or diving beneath the salty surface for an underwater adventure, the ocean is also healing.
Regardless of your age, ability, or even limitations, the ocean can benefit us physically, emotionally and even spiritually. This is why PADI is on a mission to make those benefits accessible to all, launching their Adaptive Techniques Diving Course in the hopes that all of humanity can experience the full transformational power the ocean offers us.
While many are more familiar with traditional therapies, whether it be diving, mermaiding or freediving, people around the world have been forever changed by connecting with the water – conquering mental or physical perceived limitations.
There are an estimated one billion people on the planet that have a physical and/or mental disability – imagine the power that diving and immersion can have on this population if awarded the opportunity.
PADI’s history is replete with people whose lives have been transformed by connecting with the water because they were able to experience and explore the underwater world through PADI programme and certifications. PADI’s approach to diver education has always been inclusive and is a key pillar to their Pillars of Change. Everyone who meets prerequisites is welcome to join the global community of 29 million+ certified PADI Divers.
PADI created two courses that focus on increasing awareness of varying diver abilities and exploring adaptive teaching techniques to apply when training and diving with physically and mentally challenged divers: the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty and the PADI Adaptive Support Diver course.
These courses further expand Instructors’ and Divemasters’ abilities to be student-centered and prescriptive in approach when adapting techniques to meet diver needs. Here are the various ways PADI helps those with disabilities overcome all their challenges by connecting them with water:
1. Improved Muscular Movement, Light Sensitivity and PTSD Symptoms
A 2011 study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found, “veterans with spinal cord injuries who underwent a four-day scuba diving certification saw significant improvement in muscle movement, increased sensitivity to light touch and pinprick on the legs, and large reductions in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.”
2. Lifts Your Mental State and Mood
Did you know that the ocean air can literally lift your mood? “The sound and vision of the ocean lift our mood,” says consultant psychiatrist Dr Arghya Sarkhel. “The touch of sand and the smell of a seaside breeze leads to relaxation. On a biological level, this audio-visual stimulus incites our parasympathetic nervous system—that activates ‘rest and digest’, as opposed to ‘fight or flight’,” he says. Now scientists are quantifying the positive cognitive and physical effects of water and the improved sense of physical health and well-being.
Equally diving into the therapeutic benefits that diving can provide is Jeffery Puncher, Director for the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottowa. He is currently developing a virtual reality diving programme to help his patients find relief from stress and anxiety–using calming scenes of coral reefs and the swaying seas along with the soothing sounds of bubbles beneath the surface. This programme is currently being used with medical students, residents and faculty, with the goal of growing it to be adopted nationwide to help also support the psychological health of first responders.
3. Provides You with a Sense of Peace
Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, has done extensive research on the ocean’s unique ability to induce a state of what he calls the “Blue Mind” in human beings. Blue Mind is a mildly meditative state characterized by calmness, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment. Nichols states that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and heal us on a deep level.
4. Enhanced Physical Movement
Being in the water allows you the opportunity to experience a feeling of flexibility and freedom that those with disabilities would rarely get to experience on land. This is because on land the muscles become restricted by the force of gravity. But in the water, that sensation drifts away and is replaced by the freedom to feel the freedom of movement.
5. Confidence and Control
The freedom of enhanced physical movement in the water also provides a sense of increased confidence and control. They can explore beneath the surface just like able-bodied people can do, which equally increases their own self-belief and feelings of empowerment.
6. Anxiety Relief
Those with disabilities who equally suffer from anxiety can find tranquility beneath the surface. By having to focus on your breath and being in the moment, all of the mental stress that can come with having a disability is no longer top of mind and instead allows for an escape in which you can truly enjoy the moment.
Find out more at www.padi.com
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