Red Sea May 2018

a deptherapy blog

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18 May2018

Roots Expedition May 2018

by Mark Moore | 18th May 2018

I have been a scuba diver and PADI Instructor for more years than I wish to remember and this week I am in Egypt on the west side of the Red Sea at a hotel and dive centre called Roots Red Sea, south of the town of Safaga. Pretty routine stuff for me, a week of diving in warm, blue seas.  But this week is very different.  A friend of mine introduced me to an English charity called Deptherapy & Deptherapy Education.

Deptherapy is unique. There are two distinct parts to the charity and the first is Deptherapy, which seeks to rehabilitate UK Armed Services’ Veterans who have suffered life changing mental and/or physical challenges in their service of Queen and Country, through the medium of specially designed scuba diving programmes.

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The charity is much more than that; from the time veterans sign up to the programme they are given 24/7 support and that support is there prior to the scuba diving programme, during the scuba diving phase and then post-programme until the individual feels able to let go.
The charity is staffed entirely by volunteers and just the administration takes about 40-60 hours of the Head of Operations time each week.

The other side of the charity is Deptherapy Education, the world’s leading authority on ‘adaptive teaching.’ In real terms, this is how individuals, some who have lost three limbs, can qualify as PADI Open Water divers.  Their reputation is such that the team are training all the staff at PADI’s EMEA HQ in Bristol in adaptive techniques.

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I made the decision that I would like to learn how to teach adaptively and to see first-hand what the charity does. The first thing you realise is the charity is 1000% committed to safeguarding, as those they work with are ‘at risk adults’.  To work as part of the team there are massive hurdles to overcome. You have to be DBS cleared, you have to attend and pass the Deptherapy Education Professionals’ Course. You have to attend and pass the Mental Health First Aid for the Armed Services Community Course and just as importantly, you have to ‘fit’ with the Armed Services’ culture.

When I met the expedition at Gatwick I must admit I was stunned.  I was face to face with 16 young men, several in wheelchairs, many with walking sticks, others on prosthetics and then there were those suffering from mental health issues, in particular PTSD.  The enormity of what I was about to undertake suddenly overwhelmed me as I discussed with the instructional team the mental health issues that many of these young men were experiencing.  One had tried to take his own life by hanging while deployed in Afghanistan, others had withdrawn entirely from society, resorting in many cases in the abuse of alcohol and recreational drugs. 

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The instructional team treat it all as matter of fact; they have seen so many cases but I became acutely aware of how much time is spent discussing each programme member and tailoring the package to meet their needs. There is a Paramedic on the team and each programme member is encouraged to be totally open about their condition and their expectations and fears for the week. How ill some of these individuals are came starkly into focus when one programme member decided he couldn’t face the trip to Egypt and having checked in, then decided to leave the airport and return home; he could not face travelling out of the country. More senior members on the programme take a responsibility for new programme members, providing support and advice.

Some of the guys are very clear that the charity has not only changed their lives, but, in a number of cases, saved their lives.

2018 is International Year of the Reef and this expedition also marks the launch of an exciting new conservation project – ‘Protecting Our Oceans’. Ben Lee, formerly of the Royal Engineers, who lost both his legs above the knee in an IED explosion, is leading the project and the other programme members.

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The team have committed to fight to save the oceans with the same determination they fought for their country.  I think everyone who saw them unfurl their campaign banner at Gatwick was humbled by their determination to raise awareness about the perilous state of the oceans.
Thomas Cook Airlines provided dedicated check in desks for the team, we had priority boarding and the Captain announced the presence of the guys on the flight. The plane erupted with applause and cheers.  Everything is aimed at making the trip something very special for this group of heroes.

My next update will be Day 1 of the programme. There is so much activity going on, just trying to keep pace with events is a huge challenge!

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