It’s estimated that 1 in 4 adults in America suffers from a diagnosable mental illness. That’s a huge number of people. So, why is it that America still has such a stigma when it comes to mental illness.
For many, the fear of speaking about mental illness comes from not wanting to appear broken. While we are getting better, it’s still there, and it’s not any less difficult to bring it up if you see somebody that you love suffering.
Convincing someone to go to therapy, even someone who clearly needs it is a losing battle. It’s something people have to decide on their own, and even then, it can be a lifelong ordeal of working with different mental health professional and fighting with medications with questionable side effects.
However, there is another way. It’s called ecotherapy.
The term ecotherapy was first coined in 1996 by Howard Clinebell. He explained it as “healing and growth nurtured by healthy interaction with the Earth.”
I already talked about my experience with fishing as therapy in my last post, but I thought maybe we’d dive a little deeper into the specifics.
The effects of nature on mental health
While most people attribute exercise as the mental health booster, they may be neglecting something very important – nature. Humans are attracted to it, and when we think of “getting away”, it’s often to a remote and lonely place surrounded by greenery and the sounds of birds.
It makes sense. In our everyday lives we’re always running. Everyone is busy, and many people work many hours at stressful jobs, and the stress does not stop there. When you get home, there is yet more work to do. More chores. Then you’re so tired that you eat something unhealthy (fast food probably), and glue yourself to a television or computer screen for the few waking hours that you have left.
While it can be a challenge to even get outdoors, the effects of doing so are profound. Studies have shown that as many as 90% of survey participants stated that their mental health situation greatly improved after spending time in nature.
So, why is that? While nature is beautiful, I believe that relaxation has something to do with it. In nature, we are relaxed, even if we’re doing something physical like hiking, because our minds are at ease. We finally give ourselves permission to let go of our day to day stress and actually recover.
How fishing acts as therapy without therapy
Okay, so we’ve established that nature can act as therapy, but what kind of therapy should you choose? Hiking, kayaking, and any number of other outdoor sports are great, and they can even provide companionship.
However, I believe fishing is superior. With fishing, there is no learning curve. Anyone can do it regardless of age, ability, experience, or even income.
Plus, it’s much easier to get someone to participate in. If you see a friend or family member struggling, you can’t tell them to go to therapy. But, you can ask them to go fishing.
There is no mental stigma attached to it. You’re not insulting anyone, and yet you are still providing them a valuable mental health opportunity, and you’re providing one for yourself! Everyone has stress, and de-stressing helps everyone, even if you’re not depressed or anxious.