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We Are Undefeatable: Fishing veteran’s PTSD recovery
06 September 2019
Dave Munt is a Club Development Officer for the Angling Trust. His work is often focused on helping people with health problems, disabilities or long-term impairments to get outdoors and active through angling. Recently Dave met military veteran Craig Swindon. He explains how Craig’s return to angling is helping him cope with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder…
After 6 years in The Green Howards with tours of duty in Afghanistan, Iraq, Belize, Northern Ireland and Canada, Craig Swindon was sat alone in his bedsit. Outside the flashes and bangs of fireworks gave him a flashback to night patrols in Afghanistan and Iraq where he’d witnessed very traumatic incidents. Things got worse. Eventually Craig had to leave his job. Soon after that he was diagnosed as experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
For years after that, Craig would stay in his bedsit. Alone all day, and awake all night with just a radio for company. He couldn’t afford a TV licence or TV. He’d only go outside in the middle of the night to avoid meeting people. At least that way he could have a walk and look in the shop windows.
In 2015 Craig was encouraged by a friend to take up fishing again, something he’d done as a teenager. This was where I met Craig. He was fishing alone, often all night, near to Charlton’s Ponds, fishing pools run by Billingham Angling Club. Craig couldn’t afford to join the club and had little money for fishing tackle. Unfortunately, that’s a situation many of our military veterans face – I’ve heard it lots of times.
However, the club decided to support Craig and gave him free membership, spare fishing kit and encouragement to join in with its work projects. Craig has become an active and valued club member. He always attends work groups to improve the club’s facilities and spends most of his days and some nights helping, or fishing at the ponds.
Charlton’s Pond is a secluded nature reserve in Billingham Stockton on Tees with two ponds
Craig told me “Angling is relaxing, and it keeps my mind occupied. The anticipation of catching a big fish is really exciting too!” he added “I used to be really solitary but now because of my fishing, I’m interacting with people. I feel part of the club’s community and have a desire to help people. As well as that I’m sleeping a bit better and the thought of spending time outside among the wildlife at Charlton’s Ponds and going fishing, well that all gives me a reason and a real desire to leave my flat.”
Billingham angling Club helped Craig Swindon (pictured above) get fishing again
To me Craig’s words summarise perfectly how going fishing can be the catalyst for change in individuals who otherwise would be stuck inside as a result of long term health issues. Angling can have a hugely motivating effect. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s “the reason for living” for some of the people I’ve met while visiting fishing clubs, in my work with help and recovery groups, and even while out fishing myself.
If you’ve never thought how fishing could be a great way to get active, or to de-stress and find a mindful experience, believe me, it’s good for your mental and physical health. Honestly, everyone should try it!
Dave Munt is Chairman of Billingham Angling Club and a Club Development Officer for the Angling Trust. Dave’s work is part-funded by Sport England and in this role, he gets to meet a whole range of people, from newcomers to more experienced anglers and those keen to return to angling.