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Not-for-profit founder hopes to show power of angling for mental health

The founder of a not-for-profit with a focus on fishing hopes to highlight the calming power of the sport as part of a campaign with former goalkeeper David Seaman.

David Lyons, the founder of angling organisation Tackling Minds, has teamed up with the Environment Agency and the ex-England player for a new campaign to coincide with mental health awareness week, which falls between May 15 and May 21 this year.

National Cat Awards
David Seaman is part of a mental health awareness week campaign (Ian West/PA)

As part of the campaign, Seaman, Mr Lyons and Andy Beeman, another member of Tackling Minds, made a short film to highlight the positive impact fishing has had on their mental wellbeing.

Mr Lyons described filming with Mr Beeman and Seaman as “incredible”.

“We connected on such a strong level and had a really open and candid conversation – a conversation I don’t think I could have had if it had not been for fishing”, the 39-year-old who is based in Hyde, Manchester, told the PA news agency.

“Through joining this campaign, I really want to show that there are outlets like fishing out there to help people manage their mental health and stress levels as bottling up emotions can have such a detrimental impact; and no one should suffer in silence.”

Seaman added that fishing has been a “great outlet” for him to relax.

“With the general pressures of life, fishing has been a great outlet for me to relax, de-stress and enjoy the many benefits of the great outdoors.

“It was a real eye-opener meeting Dave and Andy from Tackling Minds to hear the first-hand impact angling has had on changing people’s lives for the better.”

The campaign comes off the back of research conducted by Angling Trust which showed that 86% of anglers have said that fishing has helped improve symptoms of stress or anxiety.

Additionally, a survey conducted by the Environment Agency in April found that only a quarter (25%) of men in the UK feel as though they are able to speak about their mental health or the impact stress has on them.

Back of two men's heads
(from left to right) David Lyons and Andy Beeman (LDR Media/PA)

Mr Lyons spoke candidly about his struggle with alcoholism for more than a decade, which led to him suffering from major anxiety disorder and depression.

“I would mask my feelings with alcohol, and I even moved to Australia in 2014 for a fresh start but I just ended up finding myself in a vicious cycle again”, he said.

“At the height of my alcoholism, I was drinking so much that when I stopped my body would go into shutdown.”

He said he moved to live near a lake in Rochdale during that time.

“There, by chance, I reconnected with my old love of fishing – at that point it had been 20 years since I had last sat on the bank of a lake.”

From there, Tackling Minds was formed in 2020 to help support other people experiencing mental health issues.

Mr Lyons said that fishing changed his life and outlook “completely”.

“I found that being near the water helped to lower my anxiety levels and instilled a sense of calm within me.

“I find that fishing is a great way to clear my mind both on and off the water.

“When you’re fishing, while it’s a time to relax and unwind, there’s also lots of things to focus your mind on like selecting the right equipment, assessing what fishing method to use or what bait might work best.”

The not-for-profit has helped others to turn their lives around, which Mr Lyons said has been a “real joy”.

“We had this lovely guy come to us who, like me, was really struggling with his mental health due to alcoholism”, he said.

“Prior to becoming a participant at Tackling Minds fishing sessions, his addiction had nearly lost him his life, and this was a real catalyst for him to start his road to recovery.

“This individual used to fish in his youth and then regained his love for fishing through Tackling Minds.

“He started as a participant and has had a full circle moment as he’s recently qualified as a level 2 volunteer angling coach.”

Mr Lyons added that stories like this fill him with “so much happiness”.

He said fishers should remember to purchase a rod licence, with more information available via this link: https://www.gov.uk/fishing-licences/buy-a-fishing-licenceOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

All money from the purchases go back into the sport to continue supporting organisations like Tackling Minds.

– The independent research was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of The Environment Agency, with a sample of 1,024 men over the age of 18.