Get Fishing | iCARP counsellor and coach Steve Johnston

Get Fishing for Wellbeing News

“Fishing gets us talking again” – how social prescribing and angling can manage stress and anxiety

When understanding the links between fishing and wellbeing, talking with peers has been at the centre of research project iCARP, an approved partner for the Angling Trust’s Get Fishing for Wellbeing project.

To mark Time to Talk Day (3 February 2022) we caught up with Steve ‘Johno’ Johnston to find out how chats on the banks can lead to mental health breakthroughs…

Peer-to-peer support

iCARP, a pioneering research project that has established great success in Essex, offers peer-to-peer fishing experiences to help change the lives of military veterans to overcome the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The popularity of fishing during the pandemic has highlighted its benefits for wellbeing, with individuals and Health Care Professionals becoming more aware of how it can form part of daily life through Social Prescribing. It continues to be socially prescribed as a solution to manage stress and anxiety and other mental health conditions in daily life.

More than catching a fish

Steve ‘Johno’ Johnston, former military veteran and now a trained BACP counsellor and iCARP professional angling coach, explains why fishing helps start conversations. He said: “I served for 22 years in the military and was then sectioned under the mental health act in 2015, diagnosed with complex PTSD. I didn’t go out, I didn’t talk to anybody. I was struggling. Angling got me back out.”

“There are two good things that angling does. Firstly, it calms the mind, you’ve got no threats, it’s quiet around you, and the water is calming and it gets you outside.”

“Secondly, it gets you outside and it gets you talking again to the people on the next peg to you.  ‘Alight mate, what have you caught there, and how did you catch that?’ – it gets people bonding again. iCARP research has proved that fishing improves mental health.”

“You will not beat fishing for mental health. It’s brilliant at getting people outside and talking again. Wet a line, get out there, and enjoy it!”

iCarp counsellor and coach Steve Johnston

iCarp counsellor and coach Steve Johnston

Perfect conditions to make time to talk

Why not listen again to the National Academy for Social Prescribing’s ‘Podcast on Prescription’ where host Dr Radha is joined by Dean Asplin from the Angling Trust and Dr Mark Wheeler from iCARP to discuss how angling and social prescribing can improve mental wellbeing. While Dean coins the fantastic phrase of fishing as ‘environmental meditation’, Dr Mark explains how fishing provides the perfect conditions for anglers to have complete autonomy over interacting. Whether it’s the opportunity to chat with peers or taking some time out in the bivvy or tent, the fishing environment creates opportunities to manage interactions which contributes to the deep reaching wellbeing benefits.

To find out more about the Get Fishing for Wellbeing project and social prescribing, whether you’re an individual, a Health Care Professional or interested in becoming an approved partner, visit the campaign page here.

Both the Environment Agency and Angling Trust are supporters of the project. Through the Fisheries Improvement Programme, The Environment Agency have invested money from fishing licence sales to support the development of iCARP’s new fishery project in Essex.


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