Mental health: How ex England goalkeeper David Seaman from Rotherham took up fishing to escape the 'stresses' of footballing fame

Footballing legend David Seaman, taking 75 caps for England, may be among the greatest goalkeepers of all time.

But even at the height of his fame, the Rotherham-born father has said, he would escape the stresses of football to seek solitude in the great outdoors.

Mr Seaman, now 59, appears in a new short film today as he highlights the mental health benefits of fishing in a new Environment Agency campaign.

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Some 86 per cent of anglers say fishing has helped their mental health, new research reveals, while 95 per cent would recommend the sport to others seeking support.

David Seaman casting. Image: Environment AgencyDavid Seaman casting. Image: Environment Agency
David Seaman casting. Image: Environment Agency

Mr Seaman, speaking out as today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, said he found it strange how much men struggled to talk about their own challenges.

"I've recently learned that only 25 per cent of men say it's easy to talk about mental health," he said.

"I love my fishing. When I was playing football, I needed somewhere to go to take me away from the stresses of football. I took up fishing, and I just found it was the perfect match.

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"Even if I didn't catch anything, it didn't matter, because you're out in the countryside - you're just enjoying yourself."

David Seaman speaking with Andy Beeman and David Lyons from Tackling minds. Image: Environment AgencyDavid Seaman speaking with Andy Beeman and David Lyons from Tackling minds. Image: Environment Agency
David Seaman speaking with Andy Beeman and David Lyons from Tackling minds. Image: Environment Agency

Mr Seaman, born and brought up in Rotherham and attending the town's Kimberworth Comprehensive School, was awarded an MBE in 1997 for services to football.

As part of the campaign's short film, he joined two anglers from charity Tackling Minds, Andy Beeman and David Lyons. Here, he learned how the sport has helped them overcome anxiety, PTSD, and the impacts of alcoholism fuelled by mental health challenges.

The film comes off the back of research by Angling Trust, surveying 5,500 British anglers, which found that over half said they have found it easier to talk about their mental health or stress levels after taking up fishing, and 79 per cent say the sport relaxes them.

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An Environment Agency study, meanwhile, found that only a quarter of men find it easy to discuss mental health, with 70 per cent believing it is more difficult for men to discuss.Mr Seaman said: “With the general pressures of life, fishing has been a great outlet for me to relax, de-stress and enjoy the many benefits of the great outdoors.

"It was a real eye-opener meeting Dave and Andy from Tackling Minds to hear the first-hand impact angling has had on changing people’s lives for the better.

"I would definitely recommend fishing as a way to manage mental health and stress levels."

Tackling Minds, founded in 2020, helps people with a range of challenges through angling events, and hosts programmes supported by funds from the EA's rod licence scheme.

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To Mr Seaman, a rod licence is an "investment in self-care", with every penny going back to the sport, supporting such groups, improving fish stocks and habitats.

Heidi Stone, fisheries partnership manager for the EA, said: “David has been a life-long angler and is a fantastic advocate for mental health which is why I’m delighted to have his support on this campaign.

"Mental wellbeing is just as important as physical wellbeing, and this Mental Health Awareness Week we want to remind the public of the tremendous mental benefits that fishing and being in the outdoors can bring."