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A little bit of sunshine between dark clouds…

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As you have probably guessed from the Deptherapy trip I wrote about in my last blog, I have discovered that scuba diving does absolute miracles for my mental health and the company of a guy who shall only be known as Scuba Steve!

Steve and I have got on since the moment we met; he has also helped me accept a lot of the things I was denying I was going through. ( I think my Neuropsychologist is reaping the benefits of me being more open!)

Well….we have been gagging to get diving again and it couldn’t come soon enough… As soon as we started speaking to Chris, we knew he was the right bloke to do our dry suit course with, and it was in sunny Liverpool. Steve and I started to get excited, like kids in a sweetshop, and to be honest, after recent events we both needed it.

Chris turned out to be as nice a bloke in real life as he was on Facebook Messenger. We got the formalities out of the way and met his long haired general and fellow instructor Patsy who was equally as nice and seemed to embrace the squaddie type banter. We headed upstairs into the pool area which was like a sauna once you put your drysuit on 🙂

We did the drills and skills you need to know to get your buoyancy correct and to get yourself out of the possible complications that come with wearing a dry suit. Then, Chris suggested we head to the Harbour… well, Steve and I snatched that offer out of his hand before he had finished his sentence!

Still as excited as kids, Chris explained to Steve and I the skills and dive brief we were going to follow. We saw some plaice (the stuff you see in the chippy!) and a mussel arc. We continued the dive with more skill drills and learnt how to make adjustments to our buoyancy. Then we finished the dive, got out with grins from ear to ear and fresh clear heads. Chris did a debreif and we couldnt thank him and Patsy enough…it genuinely did us both a world of good. Words can’t express what diving does to us and the feelings it brings with it. Tomorrow we should be drysuit divers!

Day Two

I wasn’t feeling my best and I think if it had been anything else I would have cancelled and just gone home with the fatigue, feeling down… But, this was not just about diving, this was my key to the kingdom, my access to UK diving, my access to the thing that can clear my mind and fix my mood just by blowing bubbles.

I got in the taxi, put my headphones in and tried to get rid of the fatigue, which could cause all sorts of problems in the water. Scuba Steve was stood at the entrance waiting for me, as he always does (he is a legend of a bloke). I met up with Chris Ridd and was joined by our new instructor Kerry Place.

Kerry gave the dive brief and asked about our injuries. Once the brief was over it was time to kit up. This is the first time I started to get the excitement back that had been sucked out of me by the rubbish day. For those of you that have ever been in a drysuit, it’s not an easy item to get into, you start with your legs, easy… then pull it up to your chest, a bit of jiggery pokery and that’s done.. this is the interesting bit.

As you might know my shoulder is in all senses of the word, screwed. I had hurt it during the kit on/kit off drills last night. Steve had to help me in…bad arm first, then good arm (Steve doing all the work). To get your head in I can only describe it as if someone was giving birth to me! There is a lot of squeezing and moving of your neck, all to push your head through a hole that is significantly smaller than your head.

Finally, we got in the water, completed our buddy checks and then we were off. Neck wet, stresses gone, chin level, anxiety gone, head underwater, clear and peaceful…

I know i keep ranting on about it but diving isn’t just good for my depression and anxiety; it works miracles on making the brain clear of negative thoughts.  The dive was amazing and it did everything I needed that day.

Time for the theory. Chris and Kerry were really good at explaining the theory as per the manual.In fact, they were both absolute stars. Steve and I owe you a beer…..at least!

Did someone say Qualified Drysuit Diver?

Yesterday was a good day! 

The first thing on my agenda was the Drysuit exam or knowledge reviews. Due to issues with my text book and learning materials being delivered late I hadn’t been able to revise… not like I’d be able to remember the information anyway!

I got to the diving centre at 10am and met Scuba Steve, Patsy and Chris. We headed to the classroom; Steve had already done the revision in the book.

Gemma turned up and knew that I had not received my book but just in the same relaxed way they had all week, the Glacier Dive Team helped me get to grips with the knowledge I needed in a format that my brain would accept. We sat in the classroom and talked about diving and the the things that ‘may’ come up on the exam.

We then went into the exam, wrote down our answers and once finished, Kerry spoke through each of the questions so that I knew where I had done good (and not so good).

Steve and I both passed with flying colours! Thanks to everyone for an all round awesome experience, especially Scuba Steve and the team at Glacier Diving. I feel reinvigorated and I can’t wait to go diving next time!

Jon Beever blogs at: https://jonbeever.wordpress.com

Find out more about the work of Deptherapy at: http://www.deptherapy.co.uk

Jon Beever qualified as a PADI AOWD on the recent May 2017 Deptherapy training programme in Egypt. After a medical discharge from the British Army, Jon’s introduction to scuba diving was curtailed by a serious motorcycle accident. Now having firmly caught the diving bug, Jon is currently planning his Drysuit course with another Deptherapy programme member.

Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 6

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 6 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

Thursday has dawned and it is down to the House Reef with an outgoing tide that is approaching slack so we can get in the water straight away.   Lots of chat about last night’s RAID O2 Provider session with Moudi.  Oatsie is talking about sidemounts and marine biology, Swars is looking forward to his first sidemount session this afternoon.

Moudi is supported by Oatsie this morning and doing some more skill work with Keiron.

Moudi running the guys through the RAID O2 Administrator Course

Corey was asking last night about what it is like at 30 metres, so I have decided that with Michael and Swars we will take him to 30 metres.  We are going to run a narcosis exercise so out comes the slate with the numbers 1 – 25 randomly placed in squares.  Corey’s task, in the dive centre, is as quickly as possible to touch each number in sequence.  He does it pretty quickly and Michael briefs him that he will need to do the same exercise at 30 metres.

Michael briefs the dive and we set off down the beach.  Corey has improved beyond measure and he is becoming a pleasure to dive with.  So we are off to follow the South reef to 30 metres where we will complete the second part of the exercise.

At 30 metres Michael hands Corey the slate; there is a considerable difference in the time to complete the exercise at the surface and at 30 metres.  There are lots of mitigating factors in how quickly you can identify the numbers and explaining a slower time at 30 metres than at the surface does not mean an individual is suffering from narcosis.  Identifying random numbers, if you run the exercise at the surface, several times with an individual over a number of hours can result in wide variations in the time taken to complete the exercise.

We finish the dive with Corey smiling from ear to ear and we have a discussion about depth and air consumption.  The second dive of the morning is a fun dive, then it is lunch in the beach restaurant.  After the burgers I am sure we will need to look at our weighting before the afternoon’s dive.

We will need to look at weighting after this lunch!

Corey and Keiron have got into the habit of recording their dives online using the RAID online log book which is a tremendous facility and as the instructor I can access that data.

Moudi and Keiron are going for a fun dive as are Corey, Oatsie, Michael and myself. Swars is getting kitted up for the first experience of sidemount with Guy Henderson.

Swars getting to grips with his sidemount cylinders

People often look at the relationships that exist between the dive team and our beneficiaries and try to extrapolate a similar relationship to disabled students they might have.  Our relationships are built up over a period of time, in some cases over many years.  We also provide 24/7 support and have chat groups etc on social media; we also meet up socially when we can.  It is somewhat different than a individual coming in to a dive centre and saying ‘I want to dive’. Your relationship is likely to be the same as any other student, you will teach them, they might stay with the dive centre or like many that will go on holiday to do some diving, you might never see them again.

Our main aim is to create a family atmosphere for our programme members, one where they feel secure and they are able to discuss freely with the team and fellow beneficiaries their feelings and needs.

Few dive centres are charities, and owners might want to consider costs of running a course for someone with a disability that might take more than the standard four pool sessions etc.  You may find the number of sessions and the staffing levels have to increase.  Many dive centres, because of their size and turnover are exempt from providing accessibility.  How will this affect someone who is a wheelchair user?  Can they gain access to the dive centre, the classroom, the toilet?  What are the changing facilities, can they get wheelchair access to the pool?

Lots of things to think about.

Roots’ beautiful reef

The reef is beautiful, so much aquatic life and the corals look splendid, especially the pinnacles.

A good day’s diving, Swars has really enjoyed his sidemount.

Lovely way to relax in the evening with the Roots BBQ, a fitting end to a great day.

Last day tomorrow and our final blog!


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

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Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 5

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 5 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

After an evening of chilling out by the pool and in the bar, we are back to the Roots House Reef this morning, with Keiron continuing his RAID Master Rescue Diver Course and enjoying Moudi’s vast experience as he learns more about advanced buoyancy skills.

Not sure where the week has gone; it’s Wednesday already.  A few different things happening today… Oatsie who has just started at Hull University on a Marine Biology Degree Course wants to complete his sidemount course and this afternoon he is out with Guy Henderson to start his learning.  Swars also wants to do the course, as he wants to get into cavern and cave diving.  Swars will start his course tomorrow afternoon and both will spend a day being taught be Steve Rattle on Friday. Hopefully they will both be certified as RAID Sidmount Divers at the end of their training.

Tom putting his sidemount rig together under Guy’s watchful eye

The morning sees Swars and I working with Corey again and taking him through the remainder of skills and OW dives.  He is improving massively but we still have to work on trim and propulsion.

Keiron, unfortunately for him, has Oatsie and Michael for his diver recovery exercises; I am told there may well be an entanglement to deal with!

Conditions are perfect again as we all look forward to three great dives during the day.

90% of those we work with have mental health issues, mainly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of serving in various theatres of war.  If you read some adaptive teaching manuals, they have a task to ‘teach a student with PTSD a skill.’ Hmmmmm how is Oatsie, Swars, Michael or Keiron any different than a student who is free from any mental illness?  The answer is they are not, they are exactly the same. Do you talk to them differently, do you demonstrate skills differently?  The answer is no.

If they have a flashback or a panic attack, then you need to step back and provide whatever assistance is necessary but only if there is a risk of them hurting themselves.  All our team have to undertake and pass the two-day Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course so we can intervene appropriately where the circumstances require it.

Do you know what a panic attack looks like?  Do you know how to respond to a panic attack?

Flashbacks most frequently occur at night time but some do experience day time flashbacks.  Flashbacks can lead to the individual feeling physically and mentally drained and can be triggered by anything that reminds them of the traumatic incident(s) they experienced.  Sometimes there might be a need for one of our medical team to be involved. Often a period of quietness, rest and possibly sleep is required.

Keiron and Corey on the House Reef

We have seen lots of our beneficiaries learn to manage their PTSD. As Chris Middleton said on a BBC programme:

“You can’t beat PTSD but you can learn to manage it.”

In addition to the scuba diving, Deptherapy also provides 24/7 support for our beneficiaries.  Beneficiaries are encouraged to attend the MHFA course with their partner, parent, relative or friend.

Many will have read comments from our beneficiaries, that once they put their heads under the water their demons disappear.  There are several factors to this: the peace, the quiet and the tranquillity that occurs underwater, the beauty of the corals and the amazing aquatic life.

Roots is very much like a retreat for us, we are miles away from any towns, there are no distractions, the nearest town is El Quseir, which is orthodox Muslim so there is no alcohol on sale.  The recent bypass of the main Safaga to El Quesir/Marsa Alam road means that at night time there is no noise, just a brilliant star lit sky.

Roots at night from the beach

Beneficiaries are encouraged to talk openly with the team and their fellow beneficiaries about their injuries/illnesses and provide overwhelming support for each other as Corey found on this trip.

Our aim is to create a family atmosphere and Roots very much contributes to the sense of family and wellbeing.

Sadly, we live in a world where those with mental illnesses are largely discriminated against.  Because few understand mental health, they are fearful of it and try to ignore it.  Please look at the Mind website or even better sign up to a Mental Health First Aid Course.  If you run a business then run the course for your staff, the benefits will be massive.

Back to the diving, Michael and Tom under Moudi’s close supervision gave Keiron some very challenging diver recovery exercises.  Poor Keiron, but he responded tremendously.

Swars, is working well with Corey, ensuring horizontal trim and making sure he uses effective arm strokes for his swimming. We are organising an SMB session, so he can work with different types of SMBs.

Although we haven’t told him, he has finished all his skills but we still have work to do on his trim and propulsion.  We want him to go beyond standards, we want him to be a very competent diver, who despite his devastating injuries, can self-rescue and support a buddy if in need.

The afternoon dive sees Michael joining myself and Swars with Corey.  This dive is about buoyancy, trim and propulsion.  Keiron is doing some more advanced buoyancy work with Moudi.

All roads lead to Roots, is this the future of Google maps?

Oatsie had a great dive with Guy using sidemounts and is looking forward to completing the sidemount course with Swars and Steve Rattle on Friday.

In the evening, and before dinner, Moudi runs the RAID O2 Administrator Course for all five beneficiaries. It is a qualifying part of Keiron’s RAID Master Rescue Diver course but we decided it would benefit all of the guys.

Tomorrow we have decided to take Corey to 30 metres and for him to complete a narcosis test. Join us back here tomorrow to find out how we get on…


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

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