A STRETCH of the Caledonian Canal has become the first in Scotland dedicated to starting everyday conversations about mental health.
After two hugely successful Walk a Mile events in Inverness the The Muirtown Basin will be the first permanent site dedicated to the campaign.
Walk a Mile, which is based on the amazing efforts of activist Chris McCullough Young, aims to tackle the stigma around mental health.
After being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder the former social worker walked round the edge of Scotland with no money, taking only a backpack and a tent, to change the way people think about mental health.
While on the walk he spoke to hundreds of people about mental health, staying with people he just met across the Highlands, and succeeded in changing people’s attitudes and perceptions ‘one conversation at a time’.
Working with the national anti-stigma organisation See Me, he then led numerous Walk a Mile events around Scotland, attended by more than a thousand people.
The idea of Walk a Mile is to bring together health professionals, carers, people with lived experience, students, anyone who cares about tackling mental health discrimination, to break down barriers as they walk a mile in each other’s shoes.
The permanent walk has been created jointly with the Scottish Waterways Trust, See Me, Scottish Canals, Birchwood Highland, Paths for all, Partnerships for Wellbeing, NHS Highland and Befrienders Highland.
It opened this week and will hold regular group walks, although people can go down and walk the route whenever they like.
Mr McCullough Young said:
“You hear about stigma and prejudice, but I found when I’m face to face with someone in a neutral setting, and I say I have a mental health problem, people are fabulous.”
Stephen Wiseman, Caledonian Canal heritage officer at Scottish Waterways Trust, said:
“We are delighted to be working with a range of partners and See Me to bring regular Walk a Mile outings to Inverness.
“Scottish Waterways Trust works with those who most need help in Highlands communities, including delivering a series of weekly wellbeing walks with local mental health rehabilitation units on and around the Caledonian Canal.
“We see people experience the benefits of regularly activity in the outdoors in a supportive, social setting. We also know mental health stigma is harmful and damaging to everyone. We hope these walks provide people in Inverness the opportunity to get outside, come together and challenge that stigma.”
Eleanor Ogilvie, See Me community manager, said: “After holding two brilliant Walk a Mile events we’re delighted the first permanent Walk a Mile is in Inverness.
“Mental health affects all of us, but there is still a stigma around it. To tackle this properly people need to understand that it is okay not to be okay.
“This route shows that speaking about mental health can be an everyday thing, not something that people should ever feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about.”