This month I was honored to be invited to the British Hyperbaric Association (BHA) annual meeting, and conference hosted by DDRC Healthcare (was Diving Diseases Research Centre). I was delighted to have the opportunity to talk about my work and share the ways that Diving Psychology can help divers. I presented a recent case, where the diver was helped to recover from a distressing diving experience with EMDR. (Eye-Movement Desensitisation and Re-Processing).
Even I was surprised by the level of interest and the number of diving medical & healthcare professionals who could see the need. Many of those working in recompression chambers mentioned that some of the divers they treat seem to be affected by traumatic experiences in diving. Of course, this is not always the case, as some divers experience decompression sickness without any major diving incident. Still, the illness in itself can be rather disconcerting. Whether or not a diver has been involved in a traumatic accident, there can be implications that affect diving. (If you are a buddy are affected, check out the resource page here.)
As well as recreational divers, various concerns were raised about the mental health of commercial divers. There are some rather complex human factors involved in this area that lead to significant barriers to working divers to seek support. In fact, over the last year I have talked to several commercial (including saturation divers) who are concerned about mental health in this area. This is something I am slowly looking at, exploring what could be helpful and accessible. For example, EMDR to process events from the previous shift and therefore build resilience by reducing the stress load that build up over time from multiple events. In many ways this would be much like massage or physio for muscular skeletal issues.
I was also excited to learn about leading-edge research and practice in hyperbaric medicine at DDRC and around the world, and speak to the people carrying out this work. There are some very interesting things happening in dive medical research right now!
After several years of highlighting the role and applications of clinical psychology to divers, it was wonderful to meet so many healthcare professionals and researchers who could see those applications/needs. I found their perspectives on divers mental health, fitness to dive, trauma and anxiety invaluable. There were also quite a few people that I have corresponded with and never met that I was able to meet in person too. I am grateful to the organisers at DDRC and the BHA for the invitation to speak and attend the event. Also to the speakers and attendees for such interest in my work, suggestions and introductions to people who may be interested. And to all the staff at DDRC for welcoming me and making sure I had everything I needed. I’ve followed the research work and referred to medical advice from DDRC for some years, so it was great to finally visit.
Following on from the event, I have put together a leaflet that can be given to divers affected by distressing events in diving; or who have experienced a diving-related illness. This has a link to the resources page where information can be updated. I have also made some connections with people who see the need for supporting divers impacted by trauma or mental health issues. I hope to continue these conversations and keep working on ways Diving Psychology can help scuba divers.
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