Psychology Team Dives In to Study the Benefits of SCUBA

with-the-founders-of-Life-Waters

OU students and faculty with the founders of LifeWaters: Jody Paniagua, John Carton, Charley Wright, Katee Gmitro, and Harry Dodsworth.

Dr. John Carton, psychology professor and chair of the Behavioral Sciences division at Oglethorpe, recently led an a innovative research project to investigate the psychological benefits of SCUBA training for individuals with spinal cord injuries and other mobility impairments. He partnered with LifeWaters, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping spinal cord injured patients and disabled veterans experience the benefits of SCUBA, and enlisted the help of students in his psychology lab at Oglethorpe.

In conjunction with Veterans Day, LifeWaters brought 12 veteran divers and 6 dive “buddies” specially certified to assist divers with spinal cord injuries and limited mobility to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta to dive in the monstrous tank containing 16-foot whale sharks and hundreds of other species. Dr. Carton and two students from his psychology laboratory, Katee Gmitro ’16 and Harry Dodsworth ’16, observed the dive and spent the entire day immersed in the process of SCUBA therapy.

While on site, Dr. Carton, Katee and Harry were able to meet and interview all the divers, their dive support staff (buddies) and families. They also toured behind the scenes of the entire aquarium and met the director of the aquatic therapy program and the founding directors of LifeWaters. They observed the divers entering and exiting the large tank where they were diving—which included the whale sharks and 12-foot span manta rays.  And, they had the chance to watch the whale sharks’ feeding during a private viewing.

A paralyzed diver with his "buddy" and a diver from the Georgia Aquarium.

A paralyzed diver with his “buddy” and a diver from the Georgia Aquarium.

Prior research has shown that SCUBA training can positively affect the mental well-being of participants and even help reduce psychological symptoms. Working with the students in his psychology laboratory, Dr. Carton designed a longitudinal study that involves measuring participants’ mental health prior to entering SCUBA training with LifeWaters and comparing it to their mental health after their certification, after their first dive, and a year later. A “wait list” control group will provide data for comparison.

“Many veterans with paralyzing injuries suffer from a variety of anxiety and mood disorders, for which there is continued need to identify therapies that produce lasting positive effects,” says Dr. Carton. “Anecdotal observations support the hypothesis that SCUBA may go well beyond teaching dive-related skills, to also positively affect the mental well-being of participants and even help reduce psychological symptoms.”

A small scale study that was sponsored by the Cody Unser First Step Foundation several years ago provided some preliminary data to support the hypothesis. Unfortunately, that study was not formally published, replicated, or expanded upon. That is where Dr. Carton’s laboratory stepped in. He brought in his students from his laboratory to help them “better understand the research and to mentor them in the development of additional hypotheses for this research project.”

While at the aquarium, the students collected qualitative data for future hypothesis development and witnessed firsthand the therapeutic outcomes of the program, both for physical and mental health issues. Both students were invited to collect additional data on future dive visits to this facility and other locations.

One Senior’s Oglethorpe Bucket List: 20 Must-Do Activities for Every Stormy Petrel

Janet Wood '13

With a less than two weeks left until graduation, reality has started to set in. Soon, Oglethorpe will not only be my university: it will be my alma mater.

As a senior, everything from conversations with nostalgic friends to commencement updates constantly remind me that this formal departure from my second home is imminent. That being said, I find myself reflecting on not only my Oglethorpe experience, but the parts of OU that I have not yet experienced.

During a discussion in my senior psychology class the idea came up to create an Oglethorpe bucket list—a list of things that every Petrel must do before the long-awaited graduation day. I’ve asked OU students and alumni to submit items to the bucket list, and compiled them below. So Petrels, next time you’re looking for a good Ogle-adventure, why not scratch a few things off “OUr” bucket list?

  1. Walk around campus at night and discover how breathtaking Oglethorpe looks after dark
  2. Pull an all-nighter in the 24 Hour Room
  3. Have a picnic, play Frisbee, or just enjoy the weather on the quad with some friends
  4. Enjoy telescope night on the roof of the library
  5. Sunbathe with some friends at  the baseball stadium when no one else is there
  6.  Run through the sprinklers on the quad
  7. Go to lunch at that one restaurant you’ve been meaning to try ever since you got to Oglethorpe
  8. Watch a meteor shower from the Traer courtyard or soccer field
  9. Take MARTA downtown and explore the city—no plan, no destination, just a free afternoon and sense of adventure
  10. Visit all the Atlanta hotspots (i.e. World of Coke, CNN, Piedmont Park, Georgia Aquarium, Rocky Horror Picture Show, High Museum, etc.)
  11. Try to take a picture of the Ogle-turkey, Ogle-kitty, Fratcoon, or whatever animal is roaming the campus at the time
  12. Show your support: go to an Oglethorpe play, cheer on the Petrels at a sporting event, go to Greek Sing, visit the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art
  13. Be an active member or participant of something
  14. Drive to Buford Highway and try a new food that you’ve never heard of and cannot pronounce
  15. Have a mini photo shoot in Little 5 Points
  16. Be adventurous. Go white water rafting on the Chattahoochee River, skydive, rock climb at Atlanta Rocks, etc.
  17. Be in a campus publication
  18. Climb a tree on campus
  19. Take a road trip with a friend and spend the night in a new city
  20. Count how many Oglethorpe T-shirts you have…I promise it will be more than you thought

And don’t forget, there’s always Alumni Weekend to finish checking off the list! So, what would YOU add to the list?

Thank you to the contributors of this list: Katie Goddard, Tori Lloyd, Justin Sabree, Betsy Rosillo, Rieddhi Shah, Christian Hartnett, Joshua Steltzer, Morgan Coffey, Marisa Manuel, Dr. Zinner’s History and Systems class.