Today’s theme is ‘Be Active’ and it is well acknowledged that a daily stroll can do wonders for your overall wellbeing. The mental health benefits of walking can range from stress and anxiety management to clearing brain fog and boosting your ability to quickly solve problems. Walking is also linked to better sleep, a reduced risk of depression, and higher levels of happiness and self-esteem.
Just some of the reasons that former NFYFC Chair and current Nuffield Scholar, Chris Manley (38) devised the #WalkWithMe initiative.
A long-term supporter of the Farm Safety Foundation and advocate for our campaigns, we were delighted to see such a proactive initiative being led by such a charismatic frontman. Its aim – to improve wellbeing by walking and creating more positive, supportive and open conversations around mental health and wellbeing.
We caught up with Chris as he embarked on the international leg of his Nuffield studies to learn more about how #WalkWithMe works and why he felt the issue of mental health was an important one to address…
Chris explains: “Low mood, anxiety, depression and any other mental health related condition can sneak up on you when you least expect it. No one is prepared and, when it happens, we struggle to talk about it because of the ridiculous stigma.
“I have been living with depression for quite some time and, over the years, I have known many people where mental health has had a significant impact on themselves and their family and friends.
Why do we approach physical ailments like breaking our leg with overwhelming positivity, with activities like signing a person’s cast, yet we can barely pluck up the courage to talk about our mental health?
“In some very difficult times I have been grateful to have the confidence and support from amazing family and friends to talk about my mental health. However, many find it tough enough to get out of bed and are suffering in silence.”
To help people take the first step on their mental health journey, Chris devised #WalkWithMe – a simple concept to encourage people to walk and talk and normalise conversations about mental health.
So, how does it work?
As Chris says: “A problem shared is a problem halved,’ and it could not be truer in this case. Allowing people to have time and space to be more open with each other can be the start of a positive mental health journey that could be life-changing for many people.
If it helps one person to take the first step to improve their mental health and break the stigma then that is real success.”
Although very much in its infancy, there have been some key highlights including Chris’ former university, Harper Adams, whose student and staff community have adopted #WalkWithMe as well as incorporating a mental health module on each course.
There has also been fantastic uptake for key dates including International Men’s Day and Blue Monday where people organised their own walks and coverage on local news and radio.
So how can YOU get involved?
Chris explains: “It is easy. Starting from today, try and get out for one walk a day, on your own or with friends and family. Post a video or photo with the #WalkWithMe hashtag to your social media channels and encourage others to join in. If you aren’t able to walk, or prefer another activity, that is equally as valid. Just aim to share something. It could be why you walk, getting mindful and what mental health means to you. You could share how you heard about the campaign or what you think the benefits of walking are. A poem, an anecdote, a joke or anything that comes to mind.
Chris is keen to remind those living and working in the farming community that it is very common and normal to have mental health challenges. For those who may be struggling right now, Chris is encouraging people to make the first step of getting out the front door for a walk and speaking to a friend or family member.
So, whether you’re wearing your overalls or active wear, rambling across your fields or breaking a sweat on a treadmill, every step you take and every chat you have can bring you closer to better mental health.
For more information or to get involved contact email@example.com or follow #WalkWithMe on social media
If you or someone you know needs help, please CLICK HERE to access the Little Book of Minding Your Head – The book contains the contact details and hours of opening of many of the UK’s farming charities and rural support groups.
If you, or someone you are with feels overwhelmed by thoughts of not wanting to live or having urges to attempt suicide, get help NOW. Call a suicide hotline.
Samaritans 116 123
NHS Emergency 999
Papyrus HOPELINEUK 0800 068 4141