Scuba Diving and Helping People

As you travel, explore, and continue your dive adventures, ask yourself how you can help others, and make diving that much better for those who love, or may one day love, the sport.

Adventure and Education Despite the Odds

This entire experience to date shows the heart of the dive community. Time and again, individuals and groups took personal time to spend with a young lady who has a passion for scuba.

Scuba Diving Physical & Mental Benefits Help Treat PTSD

by Darren Pace:

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 tdisdi.com or call 1-888-778-9073.

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

SUDS Helps Injured Veterans; Adventure Scuba Helps SUDS

Ever tried scuba diving? If so, you can agree it’s a sport that offers an incredible feeling of freedom. The weightlessness of the water, the muted sounds of sea life, the excitement of exploring coral reefs, caves, and wreck sites — these are all reasons why scuba is such a popular sport.

But for injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, scuba is much more. It’s an effective form of rehab that promotes mobility and instills confidence in men and women facing new disabilities like amputations and traumatic brain injury.

A program called SUDS (Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba) has helped young, wounded heroes by offering scuba dive training as aquatic therapy treatment. Since the nonprofit began in 2007, SUDS has awarded open water dive certifications to well over 200 injured veterans.

“These soldiers were all very athletic, active people before their injury, and now they suffer from amputations—some are triple amputees, and they see that if they can do something as challenging as scuba diving, they can do anything,” said John Thompson, founder of SUDS, which is a chapter of Disabled Sports USA and partner of the Wounded Warrior Project.

The dive certification is impressive, but it’s the intrinsic value of the program that has made such an impact on participants.

“SUDS helps keep you active and helps you to push yourself,” explained veteran Shane Heath, who lost his left arm and leg during his third deployment in Iraq. “The mental rewards are the biggest thing. It builds confidence in that just because you’re injured doesn’t mean you can’t participate in life. It’s been an absolute blessing for me.” Shane is now training to become a dive master and spends his free time playing disc golf and following his dream to be a singer and songwriter.

SUDS scuba classes are offered weekly at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Much of the training can be done in the pool, but soldiers take trips to the ocean to complete their dive certification.

“My favorite moment is watching these guys come up from their first dive and seeing how excited they are when they realize there really isn’t much they can’t do,” described Larry Hammonds, volunteer dive instructor for SUDS and assistant manager at Adventure Scuba Company in Chantilly, Virginia. “They develop a whole new attitude toward life.”

“The ocean trips are very therapeutic. It’s a good group of guys, and when we’re there, we don’t think about our injuries,” said Dave McRaney, who was injured during his service in Afghanistan.

These trips are much-needed getaways from wounded warriors’ normal hospital rehab routines, and destinations have ranged from Cuba to Puerto Rico and the Florida Keys. But trips and equipment are expensive, so SUDS relies on support and donations from a number of businesses and organizations.

A Helping Hand from a Local Business

Adventure Scuba Company is one of the businesses committed to SUDS and its mission. In the past four years, the business has supported SUDS in a number of ways. The owners have donated equipment, provided free maintenance, hosted raffles to raise funds for the cause, and given a percentage of profits from its open houses and dive trips.

Company owners Henry Johnson, Bob Potterton, and Peter Juanpere came across SUDS when they were looking for a way to use their business to give back to the community. Henry is a retired marine, Bob’s dad was in the military, and a handful of dive instructors are also ex-military, so SUDS was just the right fit.

“We wanted to do something that meant a lot to us,” said Bob Potterton. “We’re a small shop and we can’t help everybody, but we can certainly do what we can for our military guys and gals.”

In the past, Adventure Scuba Company used its status as a dive tour operator to help arrange a SUDS trip with the use of its condos in Key Largo. Next year, the shop will put together a live aboard dive trip for injured veterans in the Bahamas or the Florida Keys.

“The veterans risked a lot and we believe they deserve a lot in return. We’re going to continue to help out as much as we can,” added Henry.

Visit www.sudsdiving.org for more information about SUDS.
Visit www.scubava.com for more information about Adventure Scuba Company.

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Megan Tyson is a freelance writer and cause marketing consultant. Contact her at megan@brightercause.com or visit www.brightercausemarketing.com for more information about cause marketing copywriting.