Institute goes fishing for answers on mental health

Published: 29 August 2014 at 10:03

Joint study will see if outdoor activity can have positive effect on military veterans

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Anglia Ruskin's Veterans and Families Institute (VFI) is 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 working in partnership with the VFI on the pilot project.

A group of veterans will spend the weekend of 30-31 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.

Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, Director of the VFI, 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."

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

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 Nick 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."

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.

Veterans and Families Institute
Our newest research institute looks at the impact of military service on veterans and their loved ones. Visit the Veterans and Families Institute website to read more about its work.