A UNIVERSITY researcher is taking veterans with PTSD on a fishing trip to discover more about mental health.

Mark Wheeler, PhD researcher at Essex University, have been researching mental health care at the Wivenhoe campus for the past six years.

Mr Wheeler, a high intensity psychological therapist, has been focusing on military veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

His research won the university Best Research Impact award, and has been incredibly successful in reducing symptoms.

Mr Wheeler, 52, from Colchester, will finish his PhD next month.

He said: "We looked at what the barriers were as to why veterans weren't coming forward.

"One of the first things was the stigma around looking weak if they admit they are struggling.

"They also say they can't speak to a doctor as they are civilians and won't understand.

"There is also a big element of isolation, and we wanted to look at ways we could counter that."

He took some veterans out in a social group for a couple of days, knowing they would feel more comfortable around each other.

Essex University has a strong background in 'green exercise', meaning any outdoor activity has a real benefit to mental health.

He said: "When you combine that with peer support hopefully they will start to realise they are not alone.

"We tried horse riding, archery, and falconry, but we found angling or fishing had the greatest benefit.

"We genuinely believe we are saving lives with the research alone."

Being outdoors, and away from the urban areas, there is less of a perceived threat.

He added: "They relax a bit more and it alleviates the symptoms.

"They really enjoy sleeping out around the lake, they have a campfire and they start to feel part of a unit again, and it builds on their self worth.

"Some of these people had not been out of their houses for three years."

In October he will take 10 veterans on a week-long fishing trip to the south of France, to research the benefits of the activity, and hopefully make a TV documentary.

He added: "They all have a formal diagnosis of PTSD.

"We will visit two lakes, which are owned by an ex-navy man, and some angling coaches and psychologists will come with us.

"They will travel together, and will spend the whole week together. We will have a Facebook page for them to stay in touch.

"We are also making a documentary, the university is really behind it.

"We hope it will be released on TV next year."

The film will also be shown at festivals, in prisons, to GPs and to mental health professionals.

Mr Wheeler has always been interested in trauma. Working in Colchester he has come across the highest ratio of veterans suffering from PTSD.

He said: "Im passionate about it, it has been a long and expensive six years but the rewards are fantastic.

"We turn people around from feeling really anxious to joining in with the banter."

To donate to the crowdfunding page visit