Hospital trust becomes the first in the UK to prescribe fishing to people with anxiety and depression

A hospital trust has become the first in the UK to prescribe fishing to people with anxiety and depression.

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 10:23 am

The NHS has teamed up with fishing social group 'Tackling Minds' to offer the scheme to people suffering with mental health problems.

GPs, nurses and other health care professionals can now prescribe angling instead of antidepressants and anxiety medications.

David Lyons, founder of Tackling Minds - the fishing group behind the idea - has teamed up with Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust to introduce the scheme.

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It is hoped the time with nature, quiet reflection, meeting new people and learning a new skill could help people battling anything from addiction to anxiety.

The first anglers prescribed fishing therapy have already taken to the waterside and organisers hope it will be rolled out nationwide soon as part of the NHS' social prescribing initiative.

David, 37, who started Tackling Minds after battling with alcohol addiction and anxiety disorder, said: "I’m so passionate about it.

“The whole idea comes from me getting back into fishing after about 15 years. I have tried about a million and one different medications and therapies.

“I’ve been through detox four times, and fishing has been 100% more effective than medications or therapy. It has helped me massively.

Fishing is an escape from everyday worries. It is a place you can go to that is calm.

“You make amazing memories with people either through a day catching fish, or a day having a laugh and a bit of banter.

“Last week I took my 13-year-old nephew out fishing for the first time.

“There aren’t words for how happy I felt to see him learning about fish he hadn’t seen before and how they behave.

“Therapy is about speaking to someone once a week, but fishing fills the void by keeping your mind occupied.

“When you’re not on the water you’re setting goals, watching videos, reading magazines, and thinking over your last session.

“It’s a form of mild exercise, so someone suffering from an injury can use it as part of recovery. Watching the float and the water is calm and therapeutic."

Social prescribing, also sometimes known as community referral, is a means of enabling health professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services

It has been widely used by healthcare professionals in the past to encourage people to take part in befriending schemes or healthy eating courses.

But David said this is the first time fishing has been added as an official option for health care professionals.

Now fishing is available as an option for all health professionals including GPs, occupational therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists, in all health institutions, and can be prescribed instead of or alongside antidepressants and anxiety medications.

All the kit and coaching will be provided by Tackling Minds, a local not-for-profit group launched in November 2020.

It received £10,000 in National Lottery funding and financial support from Rochdale Council and the Angling Trust.

The first group of up to ten patients to be prescribed fishing will hook-up for a session at a lodge in Blackley, Manchester, on 20/04.

Each participant gets a qualified angling coach trained to work with people in vulnerable situations, and each group has support workers.

The fish are released after they have been caught.

David said: “At the moment we are concentrating on the local area, but we plan to expand.

“I have been contacted by health professionals throughout the country, as far as Ireland, and I’m in contact with other, similar, fishing groups.

“It’s quite frustrating because there is nothing on a national scale yet.

"It is my vision to grab this opportunity to expand and that’s very exciting, because I know there is a demand and know how successful it can be.”

David is fundraising to buy a van to help more people. To donate visit: