24 April, 2023
Hiking communities across the UK receive mental health first aid training amid mental health crisis
by Columbia, an outdoor movement created to unite the next generation of hikers and outdoorspeople, is providing mental first aid training for hiking communities across the UK.
Over 20 community leaders from young, diverse outdoors communities are receiving training as a means to join the dots between the power of community, nature and mental health, ahead The Hike Society’s Annual General Hike, a mass participation hiking event that mobiles influential outdoor communities across the UK over the weekend of 29-30 April.
The initiative aims to equip hiking groups with the tools and confidence to deal with mental health illnesses amongst its community, encourage early intervention and raise awareness of mental health. Through the project, safe spaces will be created via “walk and talk” hikes that facilitate conversation and the sharing of mental health experiences in a supportive environment.
The initiative comes amidst a mental health crisis in the UK. Recent research from Mind, the mental health charity, revealed almost 20 million adults never speak about mental health despite one in four people experiencing a mental health problem of some kind each year and one in six report experiencing a common mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression, in any given week.
The Annual General Hike is on a mission to play its part in reversing the tide by connecting people to nature and the outdoors. Studies shows that people who are more connected with nature and the outdoors are usually happier in life and more likely to report feeling their lives are worthwhile. Nature can generate many positive emotions, such as calmness, joy, and creativity and can facilitate concentration – and this connectedness is also associated with lower levels of poor mental health, particularly lower depression and anxiety.
Liam Furneux, co-founder of the outdoor community Advanced Rock, which is participating in the Annual General Hike, understands this from first-hand experience, “For the last 10 years I’ve had pretty heavy social and general anxiety - mostly in social situations or times when I feel like I can’t escape from a situation if I start feeling anxious.
“The outdoors has helped so many times to process my thoughts and clear my head. I find when I’m rock climbing, running, hiking or cycling amongst nature my head feels clear without any anxious thoughts.”
Eoin Treacy, marketing manager at Columbia said: “Through the power of community and the benefits of the natural environment we’re aiming to faciliate important conversations around mental health. We hope that the mental health first aid training and Annual General Hike's walk and talk initiative will lead to many positive outcomes that the communities really benefit from.”
There are 20 hiking communities expected to take to the hills, fells and coastlines, as part of the Annual General Hike by Columbia, with over 500 hikers expected to be in attendance. The event is free and tickets are available through The Hike Society hub.
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