Former Scots solider sets up fishing charity to help PTSD veterans

Fly fishing has been proven to reduce the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder amongst veterans. PIC Neil Hanna/TSPL
Fly fishing has been proven to reduce the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder amongst veterans. PIC Neil Hanna/TSPL
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For 17 years, veteran Malcolm Wilson did not utter a word about his time fighting in the Falklands.

With his memories repressed and the horror shut down, the Royal Navy veteran lived instead on a fast downward spiral on civvie street.

When you are on the pond, you are thinking about catching a fish. You are not thinking about what happened in the Falklands, in Northern Ireland or Afghanistan.

Malcolm Wilson, founder of Fishing for Veterans

Now 51, Mr Wilson, of Arbroath, Angus has turned to helping others struggling to deal with the turmoil of war and that all too difficult return into society after service.

Mr Wilson, who himself has suffered with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), has taken his love of fishing and the physical and mental benefits that it brings and set up Fishing for Veterans, the only organisation of its type in Scotland.

And with the calming fishing ponds of Angus and Perthshire about as far removed from theatre of war as is possible, Mr Wilson says he is giving veterans a chance to bond and enjoy each other’s company once again in a safe and quiet environment.

Mr Wilson said: “Fishing helps to alleviate some of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When you are on the pond, you are thinking about catching a fish. You are not thinking about what happened in the Falklands, in Northern Ireland or Afghanistan. You are focussing on catching a fish.

“When we start out. I say to the guys ‘remember the brotherhood when you used to serve, are you missing it?’

“Well I them that they have found that again.”

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Clinical research carried out by the Universities of Utah, South Maine and Salt Lake City VA have concluded that with just a short three day fly fishing course the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress are reduced by 20 per cent.

Mr Wilson has won the support of a number of fisheries across Scotland who support the group’s outings, such as Ledyatt Loch near Dundee.

He said that while some of the fishing days are open to the public, many of the veterans prefer to keep the events forces only.

Mr Wilson added: “It’s just really paranoia from the past. Veterans don’t trust the public, it is as simple as that.

“They are conditioned into it, to tryst their brothers and their brothers alone.

“Many veterans have great difficulty getting out for various reasons and the aim is to lift the stigma attached to PTSD, we really aren’t mad, we are all proud men and women who have served Queen and country.”

Special forces currently serving in Afghanistan as well as veterans from both Gulf tours are among the group’s members, Mr Wilson said.

Fishing for Veterans also helps ex-soldiers with counselling, welfare applications and housing matters with Mr Wilson taking a number of residents from Whitefoord House in Edinburgh, run by Scottish Veterans Housing Association, on expeditions.

Some members are confined to wheelchairs but still make it to the lochs and rivers, Mr Wilson added.

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Mr Wilson served with the Royal Navy during the Falklands War and returned on HMS Brilliant F90 in 1982 when he was just 17 years old.

He said that while care for soldiers suffering from PTSD had got better since the post-Falklands days, there were still cracks in the system, such as a lack of emergency care, which left veterans vulnerable to being sectioned or, at worst, suicide.

He said that Fishing for Veterans helped fill the gaps and give soldiers - both serving and ex-forces - compassion and understanding that they need.

Mr Wilson added: “Setting up Fishing for Veterans has been a turning point for me. It has given me a lot of drive. It’s the young guys I really want to look out for and for them to know there is something - and someone - there for them.”

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