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AFCFT grant to enhance Deptherapy’s mental health support for veterans

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Deptherapy is renowned worldwide for its use of adaptive scuba diving techniques in the rehabilitation of UK Armed Forces’ Veterans who have suffered life-changing mental and/or physical challenges. What is less well known is that the charity provides, where appropriate, 24/7 mental health support to beneficiaries and families.

The organisation has received a substantial grant from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust (AFCFT) to enhance and expand the direct mental health
support that the charity provides for beneficiaries, the vast majority of whom have experienced life-changing physical and mental injuries as a result of operational service.

This grant has been provided through the AFCFT Sustaining Support Programme, launched earlier this year to support veterans and family groups impacted by the Afghanistan conflict.

Stuart Anderson, a Deptherapy beneficiary, said: “The withdrawal from Afghanistan was predictable, but the impact on my mental health was massive. Some of us lost close friends and brothers-in-arms there. For us, Afghan lives on every day as we fight the war in our heads that is PTSD.”

Deptherapy 1
Team Deptherapy on the charity’s recent expedition to Grenada, also funded by the Armed
Forces Covenant Fund Trust.

Deptherapy will use the AFCFT grant to enhance the wraparound support provision for
beneficiaries. This follows a series of independent academic studies which have found that the Deptherapy model of adaptive scuba diving both alleviates physical and emotional pain, while also enhancing perceptions of wellbeing. However, there is the potential for relapse if beneficiaries are not properly supported ‘out of the water'.
In addition to funding refresher training in Mental Health First Aid, and running further MHFA courses, Deptherapy will also now be able to evolve a suite of online training packages to provide effective listening support for veterans in crisis, as well as proper training and supervision for senior ‘peer buddies'. The charity will also be organizing a retreat where all past and present beneficiaries, together with their partners, will be invited to meet and reflect, thus reinforcing Deptherapy’s ‘Band of Brothers' ideology.

Lizzie, the partner of Deptherapy beneficiary Keiron, said: “Keiron came back from Afghanistan seriously injured; you can’t see his injury, because it is PTSD. Most of the time he is fine, but sometimes he is in a dark place and I struggle to know
how I can help him. I am fortunate I can call Richard or Tom and tell them Keiron is struggling and they will be on his case straight away. Running a retreat for beneficiaries and partners is a brilliant idea. The opportunity to speak to others about coping mechanisms will be so good.”

To promote the concept of ‘it is good to talk' and to ensure the project is as impactful as possible, Deptherapy has appointed Deptherapy Ambassadors and beneficiaries Tom Oates and Danny Martin to be the charity’s Mental Health Champions.

Dr Richard Castle, Consultant Psychologist to Deptherapy, said: “This grant will enable Deptherapy to provide accredited training to ensure that the charity is
able to fully meet the emotional support needs of our beneficiaries on a sustainable basis. This will move us away from reliance on a few key volunteers able to provide support to a proper – and safe – peer buddy support system.”

Richard Cullen, Chair of Deptherapy, said: “We are immensely grateful to the AFCFT for providing this grant and for their continued support of our work. We have seen a significant degree of psychological arousal among those who served in Afghanistan following the recent upsurge in media coverage. The peer buddy approach is the sustainable one and we can now ensure that our people are properly trained and supported. Our strapline focus will always be on scuba diving but we also
recognize the need for mental health awareness to permeate everything we do.”

Photo credit: Stuart Green for Deptherapy

Mark Evans
Mark Evans
Scuba Diver's Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans has been in the diving industry for nearly 25 years, and has been diving since he was just 12 years old. 30-odd years later and he is still addicted to the underwater world.
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