Fishing for Positive Mental Health helps overcome anxiety

Photo: Zac and Samantha his counsellor

On September 8th, a group of anglers in Cornwall took part in Fishing for Positive Mental Health. The event was an introduction to fishing but more importantly, an introduction to a sport that offers numerous benefits to health including dealing with and overcoming mental health issues.

With the expectations of society resting heavily on the shoulders of young men, it’s little wonder that, behind closed doors and bottled up inside, is a silent issue that for many that at best causes worry and at worst can result in the tragedy that is suicide.

Fishing for Positive Mental Health was an event that the organiser Alex Ledbrooke wanted to offer following the loss of a good friend in November 2016. Alex and his late friend John built a friendship around fishing. The times by the water were good times but they masked the struggles and mental health issues that John was battling with.

Talking about personal feelings and personal troubles can be a difficult subject for young men. The expectation is for them to be strong, confident and able to cope with everything life throws at them, yet for some, and understandably so, this simply isn’t the case. And without an outlet for release, seemingly small problems can grow and manifest themselves as mental health issues.

Alex, a qualified Angling Trust coach and runs The School Of Fish in Cornwall said, “I wanted to do something following John’s death and sharing a little of what he and I loved seemed to be the obvious thing.

Amongst the guests on the day of the event was 22 year old Zac. Zac attended the event with the support of a counsellor and his mum Cheryl.

Whilst Zac enjoys watching fishing on television and playing fishing games on his PlayStation, he’d never experienced the real thing. But after a bit of tuition Zac soon caught his first fish which was greeted with a huge smile. Three hours later and Zac had lost count of the number of fish he’d caught, as well as the anxiety he had overcome!

Zac said, “I really enjoyed the fishing, Alex was very encouraging and helpful, baiting the hook and unhooking the fish for me. By the end I did manage to bait the hook although I didn’t like it too much! I managed to catch lots of fish and the whole experience was very calm and relaxing, I would very much like to do it again.”

Zac’s Mum Cheryl added, “Thank you School of Fish and Roche Angling Club for a truly wonderful experience and opportunity. We would definitely go fishing again”.

Samantha, Zac’s counsellor who also joined the event said, “It was such a positive experience for Zac and I can’t begin to explain how many anxieties he got over in one morning and the progress he made. Thank you Alex for giving up your time for such a great cause.

“I went along to this event to support a client with some trepidation having never been fishing before. From the start Alex and the team from The School of Fish and Roche Angling Club made us feel very welcome. The idea behind this project couldn’t be simpler but the benefits from it can’t be overstated. This project is a wonderful way for individuals with a wide range of mental health issues to re-engage with people and the outside world in a calming and beautiful setting, while engaging in a great pastime. The whole experience couldn’t have been more positive.”

The volunteer members of Roche Angling Club also played a vital role in coaching the guests through the basics of fishing and using that vital skill of just listening.

Chairman of Roche Angling Club Gary Strange who offered the use of the lakes for the event said, “I’m really proud of the fact that in recent years the members of the Club have worked hard to create lakes that can offer such a beautiful environment. It’s only now we see just how important this environment is not only for the health of the fishery but also our members and today our guests. It’s been a pleasure to welcome them here and I do hope we see them again.”

The event attracted a lot of interest from a large community of experts in the field of mental health. Alex has since presented the Fishing for Positive Mental Health concept to a conference where lots of potential and exciting collaborations for future work were identified.

Find out more about The School of Fish and contact Alex for fishing lessons at www.theschooloffish.co.uk

The Environment Agency and Angling Trust has helped fund lessons and coaching for new anglers run by The School of Fish from fishing licence income. You can find events for families and newcomers near to you at www.getfishing.org.uk