Student with post-traumatic stress disorder dives into endurance award

26th March 2020

A Leeds City College student who struggles with mental illness has scooped a top award for his inspirational achievement.

Dewsbury-based Tom Oates is celebrating after receiving the prestigious Henry Worsley Award. The Endeavour Fund Awards, which took place at Mansion House in London, recognises achievements of the Armed Forces community and celebrates excellence in the face of adversity.

The Endeavour Fund helps members to utilise sport as part of their recovery and adjust to life post-military. The annual ceremony is an opportunity for the military community to honour all the nominees’ impressive achievements over the past year.

During the ceremony, Tom was presented with the award by HRH The Duke of Sussex and Max Worsley. The award is in remembrance of Henry Worsley, a career soldier who showed great courage and strength. The accolade is presented to the individual who has “best inspired others through the demonstration of determination in the face of adversity, whilst endeavouring to support others with their recovery through sport or adventurous challenge.”

Tom received the award in recognition of his incredibly inspirational story. He was enrolled in the Scots Guard regiment of the British Army when his vehicle was involved in an explosion in Afghanistan. On returning home, his fiancée was traumatically killed in a road accident. Due to this series of harrowing events, Tom suffered with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and made numerous attempts to take his own life.

After hearing Tom’s devastating situation, scuba diving rehabilitation organisation Deptherapy reached out to him to offer support. Tom discovered the calming effect of being underwater and is achieving his lifelong dream of becoming a scuba diving instructor; helping other wounded and mentally injured soldiers on their journey to recovery.

Richard Cullen, chair of Deptherapy, said: “Tom’s achievement in winning this award cannot be overstated. He was totally shocked when HRH The Duke of Sussex read out his name as the winner. For us, Tom represents the many we work with who live with PTSD. His success shows that there is a life beyond the barricades of mental illness.”

Passionate about sustainability, Tom is also involved in Deptherapy’s ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ initiative which highlights the perilous state of seas and oceans. Involving beach clean ups, dives against debris and education, the approach is having a positive impact on local and global communities.

Tom said: “I have never won anything in my life before so winning the Endeavour Fund’s Henry Worsley Award is unbelievable. Without the support of Deptherapy and the Endeavour Fund I would not be alive; this award is a true milestone for me. I hope I can give back to the charity by being a champion for our project ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ and by supporting veterans who are new to the programme.”

Alongside Deptherapy, Tom is studying an Access to Higher Education Science course at Leeds City College. This course allows students to develop a deep understanding of biology and chemistry while perfecting academic skills. Covering a range of biology and chemistry modules, the course aims to provide students with another route to reach higher education.

Tom’s teacher, Emily Homer, programme manager at Leeds City College, said: “Teaching Tom is a real pleasure. His hard working ethic is admirable and he constantly goes the extra mile to think outside the box for every piece of work. Tom’s story is incredibly inspirational and regardless of his challenges, he remains an incredibly positive, generous and good humoured individual. It was touching to see how proud he was after receiving the nomination and I can’t wait to see what he achieves in the coming years.”

As a result of his commitment to his Access course and the ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ initiative, Tom has received an unconditional offer at Hull University in September to study a BSc in Marine Biology.

Find out more about the work of Deptherapy here. Get more information on Leeds City College Access courses here.

Leeds City College