Review of 2022

In December 2021 I asked:

…is it okay if we talk about what happens when dives go wrong? Is that something you would talk about with your buddies, or instructors? 

The rest of the newsletter read:

Diving Psychology can help scuba divers in all sorts of ways, but there’s only one of me so next year I’m focusing on psychological trauma in diving.  That’s stress injuries, or post-traumatic stress disorder, experienced by divers as a result of something going wrong in a diving-context.

This can mean divers impacted by: Decompression injury, barotrauma, drowning.  Boating accidents. Bites & stings.  Entanglements & entrapments. Left/lost at sea. Uncontrolled ascents.  …as well as … distressing experiences in training or previous, non-diving traumas getting in the way of diving or learning to dive (e.g. drowning, abuse or bullying).  Maybe you can think of more examples.

This whole year, I’ve (mostly) kept this focus on trauma in scuba diving. Heading into the end of 2022, I want to take a look at how that went. Quite helpfully, I am able to refer back to some specific intentions from the same newsletter:

What does focusing on diving trauma actually mean for 2022?

  • Researching the literature on psychological trauma in diving. There isn’t a lot, but I’ll let you know what I find out. 
  • Carrying out a small, pilot study on experiences of trauma in scuba diving. (I have no funding for either of the above, your course fees support me to give time to this activity.)  
  • Running the Prevent Panic in Scuba Diving course in March, and creating an additional lesson on the connections between panic and trauma. 
  • Continuing to provide private, online, diving psychology services to UK divers and raising awareness of the existence of this services (mostly via dive centres and dive medical doctors).  

Here I review how those went:

Researching the literature on psychological trauma in diving

In all honesty, I’ve been waiting on doing a systematic literature review until I know there is interest in the course (as stated above, it’s the course fees that help to fund my time). However, I have been dipping into this throughout the year (1) in preparation for presentations (2) background research of specific issues for divers who I am working with individually.

I’ve been sharing in blogs and newsletters throughout the year, and the reason you have not seen many studies shared is mostly because there are not many. One I will share right now, and will be continuing to share now that I have found it, is this:

The psychological impact of accidents on recreational divers: A prospective study. (2010) Andrew Trevett, David Peck, Robert Forbes (2010).

Conclusion: A significant minority of diving accident victims (between 25% and 50%) continued to suffer from the psychological impact of the accident, some for over a year. This has important implications for their future health care, for their safety on subsequent dives, and for dive training.

This study was published in 2010. It was carried out at one of the worlds most famous diving locations – Scapa Flow. It was even a prospective study (higher quality from a statistical perspective). It found that a quarter to a half of divers suffered from the psychological impact of being involved in or witnessing accidents in diving.

Have you heard that? I hadn’t, and I offer therapy to divers who have been in diving accidents. Research showing 25% – 50% of people having issues after a diving accident, yet there are no recommendations or systems for supporting psychological needs. (If you are a chamber medic who works somewhere this need is routinely considered, my apologies, and please do let me know what you do). I’ve been quoting parallel stats, of how many people have psychological post-trauma issues after road traffic accidents, which varies around 10-30%.

I do need to do more literature searching and sharing, and this will continue with the Talk Trauma course early next year.

Pilot study of trauma in scuba diving

I have created a small, qualitative survey that aims to explore (1) what sort of experiences recreational scuba divers experience as traumatic or distressing (2) and what, if any, is the psychological impact on their diving or life.

The survey has been shared with divers who are interested in learning about trauma in scuba diving, and will be shared via a newsletter on Monday. (Join below).

Running the Prevent Panic in Scuba Diving course in March, and creating an additional lesson on the connections between panic and trauma.

I admit, this was a partial fail. I did run the course last year, and the course went well. I did not add the lesson on the connections between panic and trauma. I have decided to do this when I make a whole course on trauma in scuba diving. I will then add that one lesson to Prevent Panic.

Offer private, online, diving psychology services to UK divers and raising awareness of the existence of this services

This I have certainly done all year, with more UK divers approaching for support than any previous year. I’ve also been able to integrate Eye-Movement Desensitisation and Re-Processing (EMDR) into my practice, which means briefer, effective therapy that is particularly useful for single-event traumas, like diving incidents.

I have continued to contact diving medical doctors and have received an overwhelmingly supportive response. I am not intending to mention names, as I don’t want to offend those I miss, but am grateful for all the discussions, invitations and introductions. The highlights of this aspect of my work this year was attending and presenting a case study at the BHA Annual Conference at DDRC. … from which I still have ideas to be followed up on.

Beyond intentions

Before writing this, I was in my usual place of feeling like I’m not getting much done at all. Yet, looking back at those intentions, I realise that the specific aims were achieved, and then some.

In addition, as part of the team at Fifth Point, we’ve been doing all kinds of good stuff like rescue and first aid practice, integration of human factors, teaching people to dive, training the next generation of instructors, …. and, I got some good dives, including Malta and Silfra.

Review 2022? not bad actually! And I’m reliably informed (by that Fifth Point link above) that next year will be epic! So I’ll be writing down some intentions for 2023 shortly. Look out in the January newsletter (which you can sign up to below).