Scuba Diving Physical & Mental Benefits Help Treat PTSD

by Darren Pace:
SDI and SUDS group

For years, Scuba Diving International (SDI) has been providing courses for wounded soldiers in some of the most beautiful places in the world, such as Puerto Rico and Florida. Scuba diving not only takes the wounded heroes to some of the most scenic places around the world, but can also help soldiers suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Scuba diving helps by instilling confidence, letting them interact with other individuals who also have PTSD, and by allowing the soldiers to focus entirely on the process of learning to scuba dive, instead of thinking about their experiences during war. There are many other reasons why scuba diving has had profound effects on those who suffer from PTSD.

Enjoying The Sunlight

Numerous studies have indicated that sunlight can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of most psychological disorders. As UVB rays make contact with the skin, they cause the body to synthesize vitamin D. The human body is also known to produce a large amount of serotonin when sunlight comes into contact with the eyes.

Learning New Skills

Research has shown that the psychological impact of serious injuries has more substantial, negative effects on the lives of veterans than the physical wounds. In most cases, many of the soldiers who participate in these scuba diving programs were on the battlefield only three months prior to their first experience in the water. The process of studying and learning to dive will allow the individual to focus completely on recreational diving and possibly reduce the impact of negative thoughts for the first time since the soldier returned from the frontline.

Receiving A Certification

In addition to providing standard qualifications, Scuba Diving International has many other advanced certifications, such as: Advanced Diver, Computer Nitrox, and Solo Diver. During many of these courses, the individual will learn about the process of decompression and other advanced concepts from SDI’s experts.

Making New Friends

Many soldiers who have been diagnosed with PTSD feel that nobody understands their condition. Several studies have shown that talking to other veterans will substantially enhance a wounded warrior’s well-being, and accelerate the pace of the healing process of soldiers who have PTSD. Numerous people who have completed SDI’s programs have indicated that they made new friends with whom they will remain in contact for the rest of their lives.

Physical Benefits

A soldier who has been seriously wounded will likely be forced to remain in bed for several weeks or months. As a result, the individual’s muscles can begin to atrophy. When the veteran starts to participate in scuba diving, the injured person’s muscles will slowly become much stronger, and the soldier’s cardiovascular endurance will improve substantially.

Mitigating The Effects Of Associated Conditions

Frequently, individuals who have PTSD report symptoms of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. One study, conducted by Johns Hopkins, indicated that wounded veterans who finished multiple dives during one week were able to reduce their symptoms of depression and OCD by 15 percent.

Interacting With Marine Animals

Being near animals can lower a person’s heart rate, reduce the amount of cortisol in the individual’s body, and improve the soldier’s well-being. When participating in scuba diving, the veteran will be able to observe fish of all types, stingrays, turtles and countless other species that inhabit our waters.

Teaching New Divers

Many of the veterans who completed SDI’s courses have become instructors. Once an injured soldier learns to be an expert diver, he or she will be able to talk to more veterans who are in a similar position, and help these wounded soldiers to overcome their injuries or PTSD.

Getting Started

To sign up for a course or to find out more information, you can visit or call 1-888-778-9073.

Johns Hopkins MedicineFor more information about the study referenced in this article, please click here.

9 replies
    • Kary McNeal
      Kary McNeal says:

      Matthew, there is nothing in place that allows the VA to pay for Scuba Diving lessons or PTSD at this time. However; I own a nonprofit (Dive4Vets) and it is set up to teach Scuba diving to combat wounded service members; yes we consider PTSD as a covered combat related. We pay for the open water certification for anyone who comes to see us with their DD214.

      • claire
        claire says:

        There is a school here in Oahu, Hawaii called Hawaii Scuba University that your VA Benefits will pay for you to earn your Divemaster certification, and all certifications prior, while receiving BAH as you need to be present here in Hawaii for 11 weeks. Everyone in the course are Vets or active duty.

          • claire
            claire says:

            After you’ve earned Divemaster, the VA has approved to pay for the additional 8 weeks it takes to earn Instructor level as well. This is all PADI certifications.

  1. Jason
    Jason says:

    It took me eight years before I decided to get help with my PTSD. It took two more years for the VA to approve my claim. During that time I took up scuba diving. It has helped me so much I went on to get advanced cert, underwater nav cert, night diver cert, wreck cert, deep diver cert, light salvage cert, full face mask cert, rescue diver cert, ice diver cert, and am now three classes away from my master diver certification. Scuba diving changed my life and helped me with my PTSD. Right now I have brothers who I am trying to get to dive with me so they can understand the feeling and start to enjoy the benefits.

  2. Joseph
    Joseph says:

    I am a vet with 25yrs in military. I have been in the Gulf war, OIF & OEF. I need help with my PTSD. I want to do it as a diver. In Atlanta I was welcome to a dive and fell in love with it! Now I fell it is the only thing that would work for me. What I am looking for is a dive class for PTSD in Atlanta GA. Can you please each out to me and let me know what I can do?

  3. Thomas mcbride
    Thomas mcbride says:

    I am a vet from fort Bragg nc. I currently live in Fayetteville nc. I recently started diving after reading articles about diving helping with ptsd. I enjoyed the few dives I have had in a quarry about a hour away but have no idea where to start and people to dive with and help. Any help and information would be great. I’m always looking for ways to reduce ptsd and depression symptoms. Thank you.


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