Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Let's walk and talk about mental health (28/9/11)

This afternoon, on the Ramblers behalf, I signed a pledge that we'll raise awareness and get people talking about mental health; support an end to mental health discrimination; and promote the mental health benefits of walking and green space.

I'm proud that the Ramblers is one of the first national charities to sign up to this 'Time for Change' pledge, run by two mental health charities, Mind and Rethink.

1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental illness at some point in their lives. Statistically, in Ramblers terms, that means about 30,000 members, about 5,000 volunteers, and about 20 members of staff. And yet, so often, mental health is not talked about - a taboo subject, in the way that cancer used to be a generation ago. At the Ramblers we can play a small role in changing that.

One of the things that has struck me when I join Ramblers groups on walks is how many people come up to me and say they joined the Ramblers when they were low - through bereavement, or depression, or loneliness, or stress. They tell me, time and again, that the Ramblers "changed my life". I believe that there are many other people who could benefit from the walking and talking that the Ramblers offers, and we shouldn't be shy about promoting this.

In a recent survey of some of the 75,000 people who have taken part in our Get Walking Keep Walking programme, 86% said that taking part improved their mental wellbeing, and over half found that it had improved their social wellbeing.

So what practical things could we do? Perhaps make contact with your local Mind to publicise your walks. Or put on some special nature-themed walks. Or emphasise the social and mental benefits of walking in your recruitment literature. Best of all, talk about and recognise mental health. Let's us at the Ramblers play our part in bringing mental health out of the shadows.

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