Special walks through Wakefield and Pontefract are aiming to spread the message that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem in the course of a year, but unlike other medical issues mental illness doesn’t always generate understanding and sympathy.
As part of its Festival of Wellbeing the South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is taking strides to dispel mental health myths which can leave people feeling hurt, diminished and socially isolated. The Trust’s inclusion team have joined forces with people who use local services. They will be meeting at Wakefield Town Hall, Wood Street, on Monday 5th October to take part in an anti-stigma walk to raise awareness of the discrimination that people with mental illness can experience. The walk will start at Wakefield Town Hall passing through the precinct towards Kirkgate and finishing at Positive Thinking (a service-user led support group), St Andrews Community Centre, Peterson Road, where free refreshments will be provided. Another anti-stigma walk will also take place in Pontefract on Friday 9th October leaving Pontefract Town Hall at 11.30am and passing along Salter Row, Beastfair, Market Place and Gillygate ending at the Peppermill- a drop in for mental health service users run by Mental Health Matters- where free refreshments will also be provided. Information will be given out along the route from the national anti-stigma campaign Time to Change and it is hoped the walk will let local residents see that people with mental health problems are just like anyone else, trying to eliminate pre-conceived ideas.
The walks are part of an 18 day festival being held across Calderdale, Kirklees or Wakefield, designed to mark world mental health day 2009. Over 150 events and activities are being held on the themes of ‘Get moving, get creative and get involved’.
The walk is part of the festival’s ‘get moving’ theme as physical activity is great for mental wellbeing. The Inspire art group has made banners which will be carried on both walks and T-shirts created at a ‘get creative’ event will be worn on the walks.
Equality and inclusion development worker Lynn Fowley said, "We’d like to encourage people to come along to raise public awareness about the stigma people face. Anyone who feels passionate about this needs to join in the walks in Wakefield and Pontefract and get moving and get involved to end the stigma! Or, if you see us on the walks, give us your support!" The Trust’s chief executive, Steven Michael, said: “This is an ideal opportunity to raise awareness of mental health issues, reduce stigma and promote wellbeing. We know that creativity, physical activity and social inclusion all make a big difference to wellbeing so our festival is concentrating on these areas. We want people in our local communities to be able to try something new to enhance their wellbeing.”
Anyone who wants to join in with the walks can just turn up on the day or can contact the Trust’s inclusion team on 0800 587 2108 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
Local people are also invited to attend the ‘Get creative with a T-Shirt’ event on Friday 2nd October at the Oasis Centre, Fieldhead, Ouchthorpe Lane. There people can design their own t-shirt for the anti-stigma walks to look bright and make a statement. People can turn up with their own t-shirt at the Oasis Centre anytime between 10.30am and 3pm.
For more information about the Festival of Wellbeing and to see the full list of events taking place, visit www.southwestyorkshire.nhs.uk