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The Hike Society 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 outdoor organisations are receiving training as a means to join the dots between the power of community, nature and mental health. It’s believed the training, which comes amid a mental health crisis in the UK, will benefit thousands of hikers and outdoorspeople.
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. One in six adults report experiencing a common mental health problem such as anxiety or depression, in any given week.
The initiative launched in conjunction with The Hike Society’s Annual General Hike in over the weekend of 29th-30th April 2023. The event, a mass-participation ‘walk and talk’ hike, gathered and mobilised influential outdoor communities across the UK, with over 500 hikers from 20 different groups taking to the trails, fells and coastlines.
Committed to turning the tide on the mental health crisis, The Hike Society is on a mission to better connect people with nature in order to enjoy the mental health benefits that time outside can provide. Studies show that people who are more connected with nature and the outdoors are often happier in life and more likely to report feeling their lives are worthwhile.
Nature can help invoke many positive emotions and feelings such as calmness, joy, and creativity, and can facilitate concentration. This connectedness with nature is also associated with better levels of mental health, and in particular has been found to lessen common symptoms of depression and anxiety.
I find when I’m rock climbing, running, hiking or cycling amongst nature, my head feels clear without any anxious thoughts
Liam Furneux, co-founder of the outdoor community Advanced Rock, members of which participated 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’ he says. ‘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 facilitate important conversations around mental health. We hope that the mental health first aid training and the Annual General Hike walk and talk initiative will lead to many positive outcomes that these communities really benefit from.’
As part of the The Hike Society by Columbia’s ongoing mission to improve the mental health of hikers from all corners of the UK, there are several other ‘walk and talk’ events set to take place throughout the year. Tickets are free and you can find out more by visiting The Hike Society hub.
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