Fishing for Mental Health

This year, a quarter of us will experience a mental health problem of some kind.

It’s a startling figure and one that includes one in ten children and as many as one in five older people. Men in particular are at risk because they’re both less likely to seek help, and three times more likely to commit suicide than women.

It’s Mental Health Awareness week, and this year, the focus is on anxiety. Talking therapies, medication or a combination of both are the most common treatments for anxiety and depression. But what about fishing?

Tackling depression

Laid back man fishing

Tackle depression with a little fishing trip
Image: Shutterstock

Fishing is seriously good for your mental health. In fact it’s so good for you that three years ago, nurses from two Scottish mental hospitals suggested it as a treatment for some patients with enduring mental health problems. Managers agreed and soon set up a scheme to get patients fishing.

Nurses took groups of eight to ten patients to their local loch to learn to cast. By learning a new skill in a peaceful environment, they hoped patients would gain a sense of achievement and enjoy both the fresh air and the opportunity to interact with nature.

And the feedback? Not only do the patients love it, but according to Calum MacLeod, head of mental health at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde,  “the benefit to their health and wellbeing is ‘fantastic’.

Go on foot

Footprints in the sand

Walk to your favourite fishing spot.
Image: Shutterstock

Got the blues? Grab your fly rod or sea fishing tackle and walk to your favourite mark. Why? Because Canadian researchers have discovered walking not only helps to raise the mood of people suffering from depression, but it can help with memory and concentration problems too.

According to an article published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, all walking, whether a yomp through the woods or a stroll through the city, helps to improve mood in clinically depressed people. But they discovered that it’s walking in nature that’s best, helping the people they studied think up to 16 % clearer.

Scientists believe a stroll through the peace and quiet of the natural environment relaxes and refreshes parts of the brain overloaded by stress and anxiety. Just another benefit for anglers.

A chance to talk

Two men fishing in the sunset

Fishing is the ideal time for a chat
Image: Shutterstock

Some people find it difficult to talk about their feelings. But if you suspect someone you know is struggling, taking them fishing really is an ideal opportunity to find out what’s wrong. In a relaxed setting, one to one, a friend or loved one may find it easier to open up.

And if they do, here’s what the NHS says you should do:

First off – listen. Remind the person that you care about them, and reassure them that it’s not their fault that they’re anxious or depressed. You can encourage them to help themselves by exercising regularly, eating well and getting stuck into activities they enjoy. If you can, get them some information about the mental health services available in their area. And keep in touch. Depression and anxiety can be very isolating, which only makes things worse.

If you’re worried someone might be a danger to themselves or anyone else, contact a GP, or call NHS 111 to get help.

Fishing for heroes

When it comes to healing the psychological wounds caused by combat, fishing reaches the parts that other treatments fail to touch.

We wrote about the awesome charity Fishing for Heroes a few years back. They are a UK charity that supports and treats veterans and serving forces personnel suffering from PTSD, combat fatigue and other mental health issues resulting from active service.

Residential fishing retreats give soldiers returning from theatres of war chance to relax, refresh, rejuvenate and readjust before moving on with their careers. Servicemen returning with life changing injuries – physical or mental – find the opportunity to fish the cool clear waters a very healing experience, and the instruction they receive gives them the basics of a skill that will enhance and enrich their lives for years to come .

As Ken, a Falklands veteran testifies, “All PTSD sufferers know that quiet times can soon become bad times. Fishing For Heroes teaches a skill that can (with practice) keep the quiet times…..Quiet”.