by Mo Metcalf Fisher

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

The Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation trust has teamed up with fishing social group 'Tackling Minds' to introduce the scheme.

It has been reported that GPs, nurses and other health care professionals can now prescribe angling instead of antidepressants and anxiety medications.

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.

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.

Responding to the rollout, Charles Jardine, Director of Fishing for Schools- a Countryside Alliance Foundation run scheme which offers young people the opportunity to discover the joy of fishing, whilst learning new skills in a fun and proactive way- said: “ This is an incredibly positive development and those involved should be praised.”

The renowned angler added: “I think, if you asked any angler from any age, they would suggest that the therapy of water and pastoral backgrounds probably transcend the actual business of catching fish.

“There can be few, if any sports, which immerse you into a world of quiet, beautiful settings and subtle thought processes - yet charge you with the electric excitement when being attached to something from another world entirely. On so many layers angling is rejuvenating and uplifting.”

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

The group's founder, David Lyons, has launched a fundraising page to help buy a van for the programme. 

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.

Talking about the pandemic, young people and fishing, Mr. Jardine said he was concerned about lockdown and the mental health implications for young people. 

He said: " Sadly, because of the pandemic, this last year has been interrupted for everyone. Young people should be having the time of their lives but because of lockdowns, they have often been stuck at home with limited contact with friends and indeed, the outside world."

"The benefits of engaging with the natural world are unquestionable. Having worked with thousands of young people over the years through Fishing for Schools, I know first hand how time on the water can help create a positive mindset. I am very concerned that the implications of lockdown may well have a very negative impact on the mental health of too many young people and I am very keen for the programme to get going again."

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