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St. Pauls - Angling Programme

A programme funded by us – Living Well grant scheme 2023

My teenage son was diagnosed as having generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) eight years ago. This means lots of the things that most people take for granted, leaving the house, going to school, busy places, eating in unfamiliar places are much harder, and sometimes impossible for him. As a mum looking on this is heart breaking-seeing your child anxious and distressed by the activities and events that you hope would be life and joy giving to a young person.

One of the things my son finds particularly hard is attending school. Most mornings he needs significant levels of encouragement and support to leave the house, and great personal courage. He talks about being distressed at school by the general level of noise, the hustle and bustle, teachers shouting, queues, unfamiliar classrooms, and staff, as being things that trigger his anxiety. Subsequently he struggles with school attendance.

Earlier in the year I saw the Saint Pauls trust advertising fishing, as an activity to support young people who struggle with their mental health. I requested a place for my son, knowing he enjoys nature, and quiet outside spaces. It was my intention to take him to the group myself. I mentioned the opportunity to my son’s school mentor, who was keen to see if the school could facilitate a group of their young people attending. To my delight this worked out, and my son was able to attend a seven-week fishing course at Mosely Park, with a group of his peers and friends.

What can I say except that he has loved it. On the ‘fishing’ days next to no effort is required by me to get my son up and out to school. This is a significant change to every other day. He comes home from school animated about his day with news to share about the park, his friends and most importantly the fish! He has had some great catches.

The group was well facilitated by staff from school, and an experienced angler. My son has built skills and confidence that have meant over the long summer holidays he was able to go fishing independently. I saw him speak with other anglers and staff in tackle shops. He would not usually choose or be able to engage with other adults he doesn’t know. Certainly, this would be way outside his comfort zone. I hope this will be a hobby and skill he will take into adult life, both for his enjoyment, but also to help maintain good mental health.

My son has been supported this school year to attend the fishing in capacity of a coach, supporting other younger, less experienced children to fish. This has also improved his confidence, and given him an opportunity to support others, and to be an expert. Supporting others has been another skill he has identified and had opportunity to practice and develop. I hope coaching might be a skill he will take forward into adult life, and that this will be something school can offer a positive reference for as he considers what to do for education 16+.

Fishing has a positive impact on his mental health, when he is planning a trip or upon his return, he is talkative, making plans, engaging with myself and others about fishing. He spends time researching techniques, tackle, and locations to fish.

Low school attendance understandably attracts a lot of negative language. It can include information about penalties such as fines, and imprisonment, and for the young person they are told how it will negatively impact their future, which I understand it can do. This can often feel overwhelming, as both a young person and a parent. It is challenge as a parent to help your young person see and fully know they are more than just their school attendance statistic, and that while school and qualifications are very important they are only a part of a whole life. It has been fantastic to see my son partaking in an activity where he is happy and excels and where much more positive language about him and his future is used; helping him to see is he far more than a young person who struggles to attend school.

I hope this brief note helps you to see the numerous benefits this opportunity has afforded to my son, thank you to the funders for making it possible. Thank you St Pauls Trust and Ninestiles school for providing this opportunity.

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