Fishing as therapy?
The Cedar House Fishing Group has been running for over five years and, as it turns out, it’s a bit of a family affair. Paul Wilmshurst took it over from his brother who, along with their mum, all work for Huntercombe. Paul is clearly a passionate fisherman but actually, when you speak to him, it’s his dedication to our patients that really comes through.
Between 4-6 patients go fishing with Paul two to three times a month, sometimes every Sunday (depending on the weather). Sometimes the group go sea fishing, other times they go freshwater fishing at a local Course Fishery. Paul takes patients with a range of abilities and experience but all develop their skills and make progress – catching bigger fish as they do so.
Paul was able to teach one particular patient how to tie his own fishing rig and was then able to share the excitement when he caught fish using it. Paul says that you can’t really put into words the satisfaction the patient got from catching fish with a rig he had made himself – nor the intense satisfaction Paul got from helping him to do so.
Patients are detained at Cedar House because of the risks that they might pose to themselves or others – this detention is independently and regularly assessed for its appropriateness by courts of law – so the risks are properly assessed before Paul takes any of them fishing. What’s great, however, and what Paul is extremely proud of, is the fact that they have never had a single incident.
He puts this down not just to the tranquil nature of fishing, nor the stillness and focus that a fisherman obtains. He believes that it is also about being in an environment where you see familiar faces, people who recognise and acknowledge you, without the ‘clinical focus’ that is a requirement of the hospital setting. This helps patients to relax and enjoy a very tranquil everyday pursuit.
And in this environment patients progress and thrive – this is the cornerstone of ‘rehabilitation’, and Cedar House do their best to ensure that all their patients reach their own goals and potential, often introducing them to new skills and experiences on the way. Fishing’s actually not as straightforward as you might think. And catching the fish is only half of the story. Paul also teaches patients how to manage the fish once they have caught it to ensure it can be put back in the water. They need to learn how to reel in the fish, netting and landing, handling and how to enable fish to recover before releasing them. And they do. Mark says that most of his current group are now totally self-sufficient and rarely need help. The satisfaction they gain from being able to do all of this independently is immense.
What better preparation for leaving us?