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The Walk of Health
I was listening to Clare Balding’s Ramblings programme on Radio 4 a couple of weeks ago. The idea of the programme is that Clare Balding walks with a rambling group, and talks about the route of the walk and how the group got together.
The importance of friendships
The programme featured a group of walkers in Shrewsbury, who had got together with the help of an NHS psychotherapist. Anyone could join the group, whether they had a mental health problem or not. The ideas was to offer regular exercise in the countryside and the chance to get together with other people and have a chat. For one retired policeman who had suffered depression and lived in an isolated farmhouse this was almost literally a lifeline. The founder of the group revealed a telling piece of evidence. Having no friends is worse for your health than smoking. That’s the reason why so many initiatives in the field of mental health are about getting people together through a range of activities. Fresh air and a bit of company should not be seen as a substitute for more intense treatments for severe mental health problems, but can be a valuable route to recovery.
The QCS policies and procedures on health and social care assessment and planning highlight the importance of identifying the past interests of Service Users. These can then be the link to getting someone involved in activities where they get the chance to meet and chat with others, and not just to chat about mental health problems.
There are a number of initiatives throughout the country that can help people do that. Many areas have ‘community bridge builders’, usually voluntary sector organisations who can help put people with mental health problems in touch with organisations who they can pursue their interests with, such as fishing clubs. Your own care home may well be doing your own community bridge building, perhaps by maintaining a list of local societies that can encourage service users to revive their interests in sports or leisure activities.
If you are not aware of initiatives like this locally and are interested in pursuing this kind of idea for someone you are working with, try typing in ‘community bridge builders’ and the name of your local area into an internet search engine, and see what results it will generate. Getting someone involved in a local activity that will help improve their mental well-being always sounds a good idea, but it’s the first step in getting someone involved that is the most difficult.