Diving helps my mental health

Friday 18 August 2017

A veteran whose Royal Navy career was cut short due to injury is planning a sponsored shark dive to raise money for Help for Heroes in return for the support being given to help her come to terms with the end of her Forces dream.

Sacha Sloane was on target to create naval history when an ankle injury took her out of the running. Despite several operations and two reconstructions, it became clear that her ankle was not going to hold up during the tough training required.

She was devastated. And the impact of that reality has left her with mental and physical scars, for which she is receiving support from Help for Heroes.

“Help for heroes welcomed me into its open arms with all types of help: respite, mental health, counselling, clinical advice, careers and jobs, financial. There is always someone to speak to who understands,” said Sacha, from Macclesfield.

She was the only female in her division when she joined the Navy as a Rating three months after her 16th birthday and became class leader. She was awarded Best Recruit, Best at Physical Training and, at Officer training camp, Best Officer Candidate – out of 240 young people.

“I always strive to be the best at whatever I do. I was one of only seven women working in mine warfare before I changed to become a warfare specialist. My aim was to be the first mine clearance diver – a job which, at the time, was not open to women. However, I was offered the opportunity to be one of the first female sub mariners in British Royal Navy history. I was so close, but my injury prevented me making it.”

Diving has been the one constant throughout Sacha’s life – her father David, an ex Para, was a diver for 30 years and she started at the age of 12  but now it is playing a much more important role in aiding her recovery.

“I love the freedom that diving gives you – it is a different world down there and you can just be yourself. Sea is my therapy,” explained the 25-year-old.

“Also, because you have to concentrate so much on staying safe. It helps my mental health enormously by taking my mind off what could have been and makes me focus on the here and now.”

It is her passion for the sport that led Sacha to explore the idea of being sponsored to dive with sharks to raise money for charity. Her husband Simon has already raised money for Help for Heroes by doing a triathlon and, having received all kinds of support at its northern Recovery Centre in Catterick and benefited hugely from singing with the Invictus Games choir which rehearses there, the military charity was the obvious choice for Sacha too.

“Every single person at Help for Heroes will go above and beyond to make a difference to a veteran’s life. They are truly incredible people, as are the beneficiaries I have met at Phoenix House who are fighting their own personal battles as veterans.

“The money I raise by the dive will benefit them while, at the same time, make me be compassionate to myself by doing something that I have always wanted to do. I needed something to focus on, to take my mind off all my negative thoughts.”

After being medically discharged five years ago, Sacha joined the Fire Service but, part way through training, her ankle broke again and she had to drop out. She then became a trainer/assessor for the St John Ambulance, teaching all over the North West and leaving only when she gave birth to son Ethan. Now that he is two years old, she is in search of a job again.

“I want a career – something I can do until I retire, which has massive job satisfaction and where colleagues become family, like in the Forces. The fire brigade and St John both provided this but apart from the RSPCA which currently doesn’t have any vacancies, I am running out of options!”

Sacha will do her sponsored dive at Blue Planet Aquarium, in Ellesmere Port on Sunday, September 24. To sponsor her, click here.

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