A Derbyshire NHS scheme to help people recover from mental health problems through fishing has received the support of the organisation representing all English anglers – the Angling Trust, and Charles Walker MP and is now set to be rolled out across the country.

Angling 4 Health, which enables people being supported by Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s mental health rehabilitation team to benefit from the therapeutic and social benefits of fishing – one of the most popular outdoor pastimes in the UK – has been given financial backing by the Angling Trust to develop a training programme so that angling coaches nationwide can learn to offer similar opportunities to people with mental health problems in their area.

The project is the brainchild of Derbyshire Healthcare nursing assistant and lifelong angler Andrew Holbrook, who began the scheme by using his own angling equipment to go fishing with people recovering from acute mental health problems. Realising the benefits of angling in helping people to both recover and avoid relapses, Derbyshire Healthcare’s innovation board purchased angling equipment and made contact with the Angling Trust (AT), who supported Andrew through his coaching qualifications. The Angling Trust then initiated the development of a delivery programme to allow Andrew to replicate the work on a wider scale, and this will be delivered as one of the new AT Coaching Specialisms. The Coaching Specialism will be used to train licensed angling coaches on the importance of giving people with mental health problems realistic goals and a sense of achievement, and on encouraging them to maintain contact with their angling club after they have been discharged from local health services. Derbyshire Healthcare also plans to trial the scheme across its other healthcare services, which include learning disabilities services and children’s services.

The scheme has received further support from a local angling club in Derby, the Earl of Harrington Angling Club, which has allowed Andrew to secure extra tickets to take more people fishing, and is developing its facilities and activities to make them as accessible as possible to people with mental health problems.

Charles Walker MP who is a keen angler and Chair of the All Party Mental Health Group in Parliament has backed the scheme saying: “The Angling Trust and Derbyshire Healthcare Trust deserve huge credit for rolling out this innovative project which I know will make a positive contribution to helping people with mental health issues. Angling is not only great fun and very rewarding it is also incredibly therapeutic and I look forward to seeing similar schemes set up in other regions.”

One Angling 4 Health participant, Leon, who is being supported by Derbyshire Healthcare’s mental health rehabilitation team, says of Angling 4 Health: “I think it’s a really good programme, as it’s getting people out into the fresh air and helping them increase their confidence. I’ve really enjoyed it and found it very beneficial for my mental health – it’s helped a lot with my recovery. Andrew, the teacher, has brought me out and shown me what to do and has been really patient, and the whole team have been very helpful and done a lot to encourage me. So I hope more people will join in and take part – it’s something I want to be a part of even after I leave the service.”

Andrew Holbrook, project lead for Angling 4 Health, says: “I’m delighted that the Angling Trust has decided to roll out this scheme to angling coaches across the country. Going fishing is clearly a therapeutic and calming experience, but it’s more than that: by being part of an angling club you become part of a community, whether it’s taking part in competitions or volunteering for working parties that maintain and improve the waters and the local environment. This kind of social inclusion or ‘community building’ is a key element of the recovery process when you’ve been having mental health problems, and our idea is to encourage participants to continue fishing when they’re feeling better and then volunteer to help and support others. So I’m very excited that people across England will be able to benefit from what we’ve developed here at Derbyshire Healthcare.”

Ben Snook, Coaching Development Manager for the Angling Trust, says: “I have been working with Andrew over a number of months both to support his development as an angling coach and also to develop the excellent work he and Derbyshire Healthcare are doing. This current project, to use angling as a tool to support those with mental health issues and create a training package to support angling coaches licensed by the Angling Trust, is fantastic and I believe that the work we have been doing together will extend these excellent efforts and help show the significant benefits angling can have in this area. We hope that we can help to spread this learning and broaden the impact of Andrew’s vision.”

Richard Froud, Chairman of the Earl of Harrington Angling Club, says: “Since Andrew made contact with the Earl of Harrington Angling Club we have been overwhelmed with his passion for angling and his infectious enthusiasm to promote the benefits of the sport in the recovery and well-being of mental health. The club listened to Andrew’s initial ideas and were only too pleased to provide him with season tickets that came with a ‘special dispensation’ to allow him to take patients to our waters. Additionally we welcomed Andrew’s advice in his requirements for access, facilities and education. We are now building this in to our negotiations with Derby City Council, the Environment Agency and AE Fisheries to future develop our fisheries. We sincerely hope that as the club moves forward with its own coaching and projects we can assist ‘Angling 4 Health’ further, with greater involvement so individuals can take skills and a better state of mind into their future lives.”

View a short film about Angling 4 Health on YouTube HERE.

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