My name is Tom Oates, I joined the Scots’ Guards in 2010 and I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. I had some bad experiences: A mortar shell exploded really close to me, I was driving a Mastiff when it hit an IED and I also saw a soldier crushed under a vehicle. After I returned home I was crossing the road with my fiancée when she was hit by a car and sadly killed. I was then diagnosed with Complex PTSD. I tried to take my own life last August and that resulted in me being detained in a secure mental health unit.
I was referred to Deptherapy by the Endeavour Fund, before joining the Guards’. My ambition was to become a marine biologist. Being taken out to the Red Sea by Deptherapy on an expedition was pretty unbelievable, everything is aimed at making every individual feel special. When I dipped my head under water for the first time the peace, the tranquillity and beauty of the Red Sea, made my demons disappear.
In June 2019 I will be going on my third expedition with Deptherapy. The programme is developmental, so I have completed the PADI Open Water Course, the Advanced Open Water/Deep Courses and in June I will be undertaking my Emergency First Responder and Rescue Course. If I pass these I will start the PADI Divemaster programme which means I will be responsible for leading other divers. This will lead to me working towards becoming an instructor. All of this in a year is amazing and I am so excited at the prospect of being able to help my fellow veterans learn how to dive.
Deptherapy is more than just diving, it offers those that need it, 24/7 support, I can access help whenever I need it. This helps me through difficult days because I can chat with Richard and Ben who both work for Deptherapy, whenever things get difficult. Deptherapy has given me focus, to work towards achieving my dream of becoming a marine biologist. We have a major environmental project; ‘Protecting our Oceans’ which is programme member-led and I have been appointed a champion for the project. Programme members are committed to ‘giving back’ for the investment Deptherapy has made for us. We conduct dives against debris, coral mapping, biomass studies and beach clean-ups.
I have been chosen by the Trustees to work with others to develop a marine biology programme for the charity and will be working with the team at Roots in Egypt, which is our base and Glasgow University.
I am clear Deptherapy has not just changed my life but it has saved it. My psychiatrist, my GP and my parents all know this. People who know me have seen changes in me, I am positive now even though I still have dark days but Deptherapy are helping me understand how to cope with these. The team work with my parents and my mental health crisis management team.
Would I recommend Deptherapy to other veterans who have suffered life-changing mental and/or physical challenges? Simple answer 2000% yes. Deptherapy is a family, I am a part of that family. The team holds your hand until you are ready to let go.