Students Staff

27 August 2014

Can fishing net psychological benefits for military veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?


Could fishing help people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Essex researchers are looking into whether the pleasures of fishing and spending time in the great outdoors can help alleviate symptoms faced by military veterans diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PhD researcher Mark Wheeler and Dr Nick Cooper from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex are leading the pilot project in partnership with Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes from the Veterans and Families Institute at Anglia Ruskin University.

A group of veterans will spend the weekend of Saturday 30 August to Sunday 31 August coarse fishing at Les Webber MBE’s Angling Projects in Berkshire, a charity which normally focuses on encouraging young people to take up the recreational sport. Professional angling coach Nick Watkin from Kevin Green Angling Academy (South) will be on hand to offer advice and tips.

Television personality and fishing enthusiast Chris Tarrant is also supporting the project alongside Talksport host Nigel Botherway, Bill Howell from Fishing with Forces and Lt Col Keith Armstrong from the Army Angling Federation (AAF). They will all be dropping in to meet the veterans during the weekend.

Mark, who also works in the NHS as a High Intensity Psychological Therapist for Health in Mind in Colchester, said: “We want to see if the companionship of camping and fishing together plus being outdoors will have quantifiable effects on the symptoms experienced by military veterans with Post-traumatic stress disorder.”

The research team is working closely with Veterans First, the North Essex Veterans Mental Health Network established by North Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Mark said: “Veterans First has been invaluable in their support with this project.”

Research in this area is limited, but the team were inspired by an Australian study which looked at the effects of a one-day fishing trip on military veterans.

Dr Cooper said: “This will be a pilot study and we hope to undertake further research in the future into which factors offer the most benefits. We’ll be looking at the psychological test scores of participants at the start of the weekend, on the evening they leave and a week later to see how they have changed.

“There is anecdotal evidence from charities working with military veterans that these kinds of activities do have a positive impact, but we want to research this in a structured way.”

Veterans and Families Institute director Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes said: "We've known for some time of the positive effects on veteran mental health of exposure to natural environments. This joint study with the University of Essex gives us the excellent opportunity to test out the effects of a group angling activity on a group of veterans."

Project supporters include:

• Les Webber MBE who established Angling Projects and agreed to allow the Essex team to use its facilities.
Nash Tackle donated beds, sleeping bags, bait and fishing bivvies.
Nick Watkins donated his time as a coach
Mainline Baits donated bait.

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