North East veterans use fishing as a way to address their mental health and wellbeing

Veteran residents living at Launchpad’s Avondale House in Newcastle upon Tyne are looking forward to getting outdoors this summer and using fishing as a way to manage their mental health and wellbeing.

Residents living at the scheme in Byker, which comprises 33 self-contained flats and is the city’s largest veterans’ accommodation provider, have found the last twelve months difficult due to the pandemic.

Their mental health and wellbeing has been challenged since lockdown as most services have either had to reduce or stop. The communal areas within the building have been closed and some of our more vulnerable residents have had to self-isolate in their rooms. However, the charity’s staff have been filling in the gap with phone calls and video calls, or face-to-face support when distancing rules allow.

Staff at the scheme asked residents what activities they would like to participate in once the pandemic is under control and when it is safe to do so. At the end of last year, residents at Avondale House set up a cycling club and chose fishing following previous successful trips with the Angling Trust in the past.

The charity has secured £3,530 from the Angling Trust as part of Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund and will organise a series of fishing trips, available to all 33 residents to participate in throughout the year.

It is proven that fishing reduces stress and anxiety, improves physical health, mental wellbeing and social isolation and it will contribute to their recovery.

Phil Thompson, Manager of Avondale House, said:

“We know this project will be popular with residents because we gave them the option to collectively choose what activities they would like to participate in. We already have a very successful partnership with the Angling Trust from previous fishing experience days and we are delighted to continue to work together to help support our veteran residents.

“We know from experience, fishing is a great activity to get our veterans outdoors in the fresh air and away from every day life and stresses. I think we’re all ready to do this once this pandemic is over and our residents are looking forward to learning more about fishing and, of course, catching some fish!”

David Munt, Club & Fishery Development Officer (East) for the Angling Trust and a Level 2 qualified coach, said:

“Facilitating previous fishing days with the resident veterans at Avondale House has been an absolute pleasure. It’s been great to watch them relax and enjoying the company of their comrades in a tranquil peaceful environment which is obviously great for their health and wellbeing.”

“We work in partnership with the Environment Agency and Waterside Parks, Northumbrian Water to take groups of people such as veterans to provide a different experience. The trips are very well received by all groups.”

Fladen Fishing UK have also provided a very generous discount on equipment for the veterans. This includes rods, reels, nets and other essential accessories. Rachael Bradwick, Managing Director, said: “Fladen Fishing consider it a privilege to be given this opportunity to support our former servicemen and women. Fishing is the perfect way to relax, connect with nature and detach from the pressures of life.”

In addition to Avondale House, Launchpad also has a house in Liverpool. Since 2013, the charity has supported almost 500 veterans. 71% of residents successfully move on to settled accommodation and 42% (pre-pandemic figure) leave in paid employment.

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