COUNTRYSIDE walks organised by Isle of Anglesey Council are helping to improve mental health and well-being of residents.
The council’s Countryside and AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) team and Social Services are working closely with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to use walks as a form of natural therapy.
Walking in beauty spots such as the Breakwater Country Park in Holyhead, nearby Rocky Coast and Rhoscolyn headland is helping people cope with their own mental health issues and become more active.
Clients can be referred by their own local GP or through Anglesey’s Community Mental Health Team. A referral is needed before an individual can join the walks.
Senior mental health support worker, Catrin Pritchard, said: “These walking groups help the referred individuals to cope better with their mental health issues.
“They have become an integral part of our service, helping to support individuals with various needs – be they primary or secondary care-related.
“The walking group have seen a noticeable change in many clients as they become more active and develop greater confidence.”
Walking groups provide people with various opportunities to experience the outdoors, and the feeling of wellbeing it can provide.
The walks also contribute to related goals of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 – and help build towards a healthier Wales in terms of mental wellbeing.
Holyhead Breakwater Country Park warden, Wil Stewart, leads the countryside walks and has seen first-hand the benefits they bring clients.
He said: “It has been my privilege to lead many walks over the years, including those for individuals supported by the council’s Social Services and Health Service.
“It is great that they really look forward to the outdoor walks and are at one with the environment. We often see swooping choughs, an occasional seal, and lots of other wildlife.
“It is satisfying to sense people connecting with nature, and often connecting with themselves.
“For a significant number of walkers, they have become a valued routine, and are now being enjoyed once again after the enforced break caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The positive feedback received from clients has been very humbling, and it is rewarding to play a small part helping to improve the mental health and wellbeing of those who join me on these walks.”
Anglesey’s Social Services portfolio holder, Councillor Llinos Medi, added: “Walking clearly provides a form of natural therapy, helping to improve mental health and wellbeing.
“I am delighted that our Countryside and Social Services teams continue to work in partnership to help bring positive psychological and physical changes in those individuals attending.”