Fishing for Positive Mental Health

With fishing as their motivation, but simply relaxing as their true goal, a small group of men recently gathered by pond in Cornwall on a perfect autumn morning.  With clear blue skies above and mist rising off the surface of the calm water, it was the ideal place for a brief escape from today’s fast paced world.

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 is 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.

It was with a little trepidation that Alex decided to invite men in Cornwall to join them for a morning’s fishing, to experience the benefits that come from being outside, close to water and away briefly at least, from life’s pressures.

Alex, a qualified Angling Trust angling 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.  I wasn’t prepared for the response the event would generate and it soon become clear just how important offering this introduction to fishing but perhaps more importantly, relaxing would be.  The messages I received first from friends and then complete strangers about the event and how it was already helping them to talk to the family about how they were feeling was at times quite overwhelming.”

The morning of the event started with a quick walk through of the basic tackle that would be used, simple casting techniques, baiting up and how to unhook a fish.  Almost immediately the first fish, a superb roach came to the net of one of the guests, Paul.  Paul suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.  Just leaving the house was a big deal and he admitted, meeting a group of strangers was a hugely nerve wracking affair.

With help from members of the Samaritans in Cornwall who kindly volunteered to attend the morning and provide emotional support, Paul and others had the chance to talk and seek advice and guidance on how to move forward and overcome their troubles.  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.”

Gill Pipkin, Director, Samaritans of Cornwall at Truro who also enjoyed her first fishing lesson added, “Samaritans of Cornwall at Truro were delighted to be asked to support this event.  It attracted a normally hard to reach group of people who often suffer greatly from distress and despair – middle aged men.  The conversations we had with the anglers were really meaningful, and we were blessed with warm sunshine and a beautiful location.  I hope that the Club will run more of these events.”

Reflecting on the event, Alex said, “The event has given me a lot to think about.  My coaching has to date been about introducing young people to fishing, never before have I looked at fishing in this light and I’ve certainly never witnessed the impact that a few hours fishing has had like today.  I look forward to working further with the Angling Trust, Roche Angling Club and the Samaritans to repeat the offer and help more men out there.”