Veteran PTSD Fishing Treatment Project Nets $1.3m in Funding

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A “game-changing” $1.3m cash injection has been awarded to researchers exploring if doctors can prescribe fishing to treat PTSD.  

A “game-changing” $1.3m cash injection has been awarded to researchers exploring if doctors can prescribe fishing to treat PTSD.  

The vital funding will allow the University of Essex’s Dr Nick Cooper and collaborator Dr Mark Wheeler to expand their influential work which has helped hundreds of military veterans.  

Now the Department of Psychology’s Dr Cooper will explore if casting a rod from the bankside can aid police officers, paramedics, firefighters, and the coast guard deal with trauma.    

Taking place over the course of three and a half years the National Institute for Health and Care Research-funded project (NIHR) is one of only three being explored across the UK.  

It is hoped Casting Away Trauma will develop innovative nature-based treatments for mental health conditions on the NHS.  

Watch a YouTube documentary on the project’s life-changing work here.

Dr Cooper said: “This is a game-changing funding for our research, which will help us show definitively if fishing can make a real difference to the people who have given so much to keep us all safe.  

“We are incredibly proud to receive NIHR funding to expand our project, which we have proved has a real impact on servicemen and women. 

“We have shown that a weekend of angling has demonstrable and real impact on vulnerable veterans and can help them back into society. 

“We are incredibly excited and honoured to receive the funding to expand our research.” 

PTSD -Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – sees sufferers relive traumatic and can lead to debilitating depression, anxiety and even suicide. 

The Casting Away Trauma project has found a way to break barriers stopping veterans and other sufferers from engaging with traditional therapy. 

By emphasising learning a new recreational skill rather than traditional therapy they use peer support and sessions led by a qualified recreation coach to ease the symptoms. 

Dr Wheeler added: “This is a tremendous piece of news for all concerned.  

“As joint CEO of iCARP CIC, alongside Dr Cooper, I can state that, as an organisation, we are immensely proud to have played our part in this ground-breaking research project.  

“From our first research design and trip, 10 years ago now, we have worked tirelessly to reach this point and could not be more pleased for all our supporters, collaborators and volunteers who have all played an integral part in the programme.  

“We look forward to the next part of the journey with excitement and anticipation. 

Dr Cooper and Dr Wheeler will conduct the research through their community interest company iCARP CIC, which runs picturesque lakes nestled near Harwich, Essex.” 

Their previous research took servicemen with PTSD, who had an average of 12 years military experience on a weekend fishing retreat – focussing on relaxation, socialisation and learning new skills. 

The innovative intervention sparked significant clinical change in 60% of participants that also reduced depression and anxiety for a month after the trip – with wellbeing scores soaring. 

It also confirmed the 30-hour, 2-day peer-support intervention can now be expanded to deliver a large-scale trial using the same methods. 

The project has been praised by the Ministry of Defence (receiving a gold award in 2022), recognised by The Angling Trust and recently received a contract to deliver community mental health treatment for the NHS Essex Partnership University Trust via local volunteering bodies. 

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