The ‘Walking for Wellbeing and Good Mental Health Toolkit’ has been produced to support Paths for All’s 550 weekly Health Walks taking place across Scotland each week. These Health Walks are free, social and low-level local walks that anyone can attend no matter what their age, gender or ability might be.
Walking can have a positive effect on mood, self-esteem and confidence, and can create social connections. But for those living with mental health issues, there can be barriers to engaging in activities such as walking groups including a lack of openness around mental health, fear of judgement and stigma, anxiety, and a lack of confidence.
Working together, we have created this resource to break down the barriers to engaging with physical activities. The resource provides tips on how to make Health Walks welcoming and inclusive for everyone, including those with mental health problems.
It aims to reduce the stigma around poor mental health and encourage more conversations around our mental health. It also highlights the important role that being regularly active can have in supporting good mental health.
Frances Bain, Walking for Health Programme Manager at Paths for All commented:
The toolkit is a great resource which has some simple, easy to use ideas to encourage us all to talk about our mental health. A Health Walk is an ideal place to have these conversations as it’s a welcoming, health promoting, natural environment. We’d encourage people who are experiencing mental health issues to come along a try a Health Walk, confident that they’ll be supported and welcomed.
The toolkit was launched in Strathclyde Country Park with the help of local Health Walk group Get Walking Lanarkshire, who are keen to use it to encourage more local people to join their walks.
It consists of guidance for Health Walk Project Coordinators, information and resources for Volunteer Walk Leaders, ‘conversation starter’ postcards for walkers and a short evaluation tool. The toolkit will be distributed to all members of our Scottish Health Walk Network and will be used by projects from Orkney to Dumfries.
Toni Groundwater, See Me social movement manager, said: “We all have physical health and know how important it is that we look after ourselves. We also all have mental health, but we don’t always find it as easy to talk about how we are feeling when we are struggling.
“One of the best ways to change how people think and behave is to make mental health a topic in day to day conversation, rather than a taboo subject people don’t want to talk about.
“So, encouraging people to talk about mental health while out on a walk is a great way of removing the stigma around mental health and getting active at the same time.”
The toolkit supports the work of the See Me campaign which aims to tackle mental health discrimination and SAMH’s Charter for Physical Activity and Sport.
Robert Nesbitt, Head of Physical Activity and Sport at SAMH added: “Everyone deserves the chance to experience the benefits that physical activity can bring to our mental health and wellbeing.
“We know that people experiencing a mental health problem can find it difficult to participate in physical activity and sport. The great thing about walking is that it’s free, simple and great for our mental health and wellbeing. We hope that the toolkit will help people to get and stay active while connecting with people in their community.”
For more information about our Health Walks here.