Imagine for a moment – if you can – that you are a diver with Chronic PTSD from your service in Afghanistan. Would you be able to dive and penetrate a wreck at 20 metres, with your mask ‘blacked out’? Then be taken off the penetration line and find your way back onto it without being able to see it? Then work out which direction you are heading? Would you be able to do that without a panic attack or a stress-induced flashback?
80% of beneficiaries diving with Scuba Diving rehabilitation charity Deptherapy have Chronic or Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often in addition to physical injuries. Yet on a recent expedition to Malta, eight Deptherapy divers successfully completed their skills and drills to perfection, without panic, but with the confidence to trust their dive buddies and the highly experienced instructional team – a true testament to the rigorous Deptherapy training process and the development of its divers to face and surpass such challenges.
This September, eight beneficiaries and three instructors headed to St Julien’s Bay for a week’s diving expedition focused on Malta’s historical wrecks using the RAID Advanced Wreck Course as the training model. The aim of the course was to develop the skillset and confidence of those who will lead teams on the 2022 Marine Biology Red Sea expedition on Roots’ Red Sea’s liveaboard Big Blue. The liveaboard is funded by a grant from the Armed Forces’ Covenant Fund Trust.
The week’s diving was based at the Divewise Dive Centre and as usual, Alan and Viv Whitehead were the perfect hosts. Since leaving the EU, visiting British Instructors cannot teach in Malta and so a RAID Instructor, Joe – one of the Divewise / Techwise team – was assigned to Team Deptherapy for the week.
The plan had been to hit the ground running on the first day with some theory, followed by SMB skills on the house reef but sadly the weather had different ideas. For the first time since April, the heavens opened with heavy rain accompanied by thunder, lightning, and high winds. The normally calm and protected house reef resembled a wave machine and although the team did manage one dive in the afternoon, many subsequently felt unwell.
The forecast didn’t bode much better for the next few days and so the original plan to complete the course on days two and three was amended, with the main focus being to complete the four required dives by the end of the week.
The weather improved significantly within a couple of days and the team were able to dive HMS Maori, a boat with a tremendous history and one of the vessels that tracked the Bismarck in World War II.
Everyone was enthused for the next day diving from a boat at Comino but again, high winds made boat diving impossible and a shore dive at the recently sunk P33 ex East German patrol boat was second choice, followed by easier access to a shallow harbour wreck. A further trip to the P33 was also scuppered by high winds but the team enjoyed the P29 wreck in popular Cirkewwa which has a couple of wrecks, swimthroughs and reef to explore.
The last day of diving, after having COVID tests first thing, was on the Tugboat which was reached by rib from the dive centre, Fortunately, the team were able to complete their skills – resulting in eight very happy RAID Advanced Wreck Divers.
Deptherapy beneficiary and Trustee Michael Hawley said:
“A great week of diving, pity about the weather. The course is outstanding and the challenges pretty massive, but everyone responded positively. Lots of new skills were learnt and we worked together as a team to live up to our mantra to adapt and overcome.”
A note: From an adaptive teaching point of view many of Malta’s dive sites are not easily accessible even for able bodied divers and would be almost totally inaccessible to wheelchairs or many prosthetic wearers. With a considerable amount of money being generated by scuba divers travelling to Malta it would be a good investment for the Maltese Government to make dive sites more accessible to all divers.
Deptherapy’s thanks go to Alan, Viv and Joe at Divewise for their excellent support, and to the beneficiaries and volunteer instructors of Team Deptherapy for rising to and surpassing each and every challenge during the week.