North Yorkshire on the run to support mental health

This story was published 15 May 2019

North Yorkshire is on the move to support mental health and well-being.

North Yorkshire running and walking group at the Northallerton parkrun takeover

The county council’s running and walking group for mental health, one of the first of its kind nationally for people with mental health issues, is going from strength to strength. 

The group, which is run by the county council’s Health and Adult Services for people referred by GPs and other health professionals, has now been extended to Harrogate after a successful pilot in Hambleton.

With Mental Health Awareness Week in full swing and activities being held across North Yorkshire supported by public health and other county council services as well as library volunteers, the running and walking groups for mental health are playing their part and continue to develop and grow.

The first group was started nearly two ago by Glen Hilton a support. time and recovery worker for the county council’s health and adult services and a former England International cross country runner. He said: “Running calmed me down and gave me confidence in other areas. I felt that what it gave to me it could give to the people we support with mental health.  Those that don’t want to run can walk but the point is they meet as a group and we get out in the open air every week and run or walk together.

“Some people wouldn’t get out at all if it wasn’t for the group. If you have a mental health issue, it can be hard to get out of bed or out of the house, but running and walking together helps people to build up trust and reach out to each other. We’ve seen phenomenal improvements in wellbeing for some members of the group.”

Glen started the group with Hambleton District Council officer David Earl, partnership and development officer for health and well-being and communities. Hambleton has provided a base for the group at the Northallerton Leisure Centre and the group meets once a week to complete the Northallerton parkrun circuit. Recently the group, supported by county council officers, volunteered and organised the town’s Saturday morning parkrun to raise awareness about mental health.

“I’m a passionate advocate for using physical activity to promote mental health” said Glen. “The parkrun event was fantastic. It gave the group such a boost.”

Other routes are planned for the group during the summer, including along Sutton Bank. A member of the running and walking group, Paula Taylor, said: “If I’m having a really bad day the running helps me come out of myself and the fact we do it every week together gives me something to hold on to. It’s a life saver.”

Kieran Ellis was referred to the group last autumn. He said: “I’m not a natural runner but it does get me out of the house and out of my comfort zone to be part of a running and walking group. Leaving the house is an ordeal for me but each time I run with the group it gets a bit easier. Our support workers are passionate about running and its benefits and that’s infectious. We support each other. It builds trust and takes away the stigma of mental ill-health. I was really scared but it’s like entering a judgement-free zone. It gives you some peace of mind.”

Due to this success, the county council has now set up another running and walking group for people using mental health services in Harrogate. This, too, is having a strongly positive impact on its members.

“It’s early days, but we are expanding bit by bit” said Glen. “Nobody is exempt from mental health issues and running and walking groups for mental health are proving highly effective in getting people moving, getting them out into the fresh air, relaxing, getting fitter and building up trust with each other”.

The initiative has been strongly backed by Richard Webb, North Yorkshire’s Director for Health and Adult Services who has taken up running recently himself and is an advocate for the impact physical exercise has on well-being. He said: “We have seen real and positive benefits for this walking and running group. Giving support to people to get up and out and doing this together every week is proving a success in improving well-being. And it’s about something for everybody: the achievement is about taking part. We are finding it has great power for good.”

The county council is now setting up walking and running groups for mental health around the county for its own staff, opening them up to district and health colleagues.

“Promoting and supporting mental health is one of our top priorities” said County Councillor Michael Harrison, Executive Member for adult social care and health integration, “The feedback we get about the running and walking groups is that they are highly effective and are making a real difference to people’s lives.”

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week the county council’s Support, Time and Recovery team for Scarborough and Whitby is holding a two mile Walk for Wellbeing tomorrow (Thurs May 16th) starting near the boating shed at Peasholm Park at 1pm. 

“Shining a light on mental health issues and how they affect individuals and society today, is so important”, said County Cllr Carol Dickinson, Executive Member for Public Health.

“Millions of people in the UK are affected by mental illness; it is estimated that one in six people in the past week have experienced a common mental health problem. Many more of us will know someone who has been affected, whether this is a friend, loved one or work colleague. The more we can raise awareness about mental health the more we are able to support people effectively.”

North Yorkshire library events for mental health:

  • Libraries around the county, supported by their many volunteers, have also been holding a wide range of events during Mental Health Awareness Week.
  • Many libraries are showcasing Reading Well book collections.  These encourage people to manage their health and wellbeing through self-help books endorsed by health experts.
  • Some libraries are also supplying Wellbeing Bags filled with colouring, recipes, self-help books, a relaxation CD as well as health information and advice.
  • Libraries also give people access to accredited health information, health signposting, social and recreational activities and volunteering opportunities that keep people active.
  • North Yorkshire County Councillor Greg White, Executive Member for Libraries, said: “Part of the wide role of libraries is to support people’s health and wellbeing. The displays and events being held in many of North Yorkshire’s libraries will highlight and inform people about mental health issues and the support available.”
  • Libraries hosting displays include Bilton, Knaresborough, Starbeck, Harrogate, Ripon, Eastfield, Malton, Filey, Scalby, Derwent Valley Bridge, Northallerton and the Supermobile.

Other library Mental Health Awareness Week activities include:

  • Eastfield, Scarborough: Mindfulness and Relaxation session, Friday 17 May, 10am to 12pm. Free event, no need to book;
  • Filey: Filey fashion week, providing reminiscence through photographs of bygone days fashion to promote memories and discussion;
  • Harrogate: Board blast display all week for people to add positive thoughts and phrases
  • Malton: Relaxing jigsaws and board game area all week. Chill out board providing customers’ suggestions about how to relax and combat stress;
  • Northallerton: Mental Health Awareness workshop, Thursday 16 May, 1.30pm to 4pm.  Aimed at those working with people with autism, mental health issues, dementia or other vulnerable people. For more information or to book, please call our Customer Service Centre on 01609 780780 and ask for Adult Learning;
  • Ripon: Drop-in information session with MIND, Friday 17 May, 10.00am to 12.30pm;
  • Scarborough: Weekly wellbeing art club launching Wednesday 15 May, 2pm to 3.30pm. Free drop-in open to all adults, no art experience necessary;
  • Scarborough: Headspace drop-in information day, Wednesday 15 May, 12pm to 5pm. Organisations available to provide information and support include New Horizons, Survivors, YELL SOS and Carers Resource;
  • Selby: Sing-along with Selby Community Choir, Thursday 16 May, 10.30am to 12pm. No need to book, just turn up. Free but donations welcome;
  • Starbeck: Display from ‘Wellspring Therapy’ all week. Counselling and training centre in Starbeck offering friendly and affordable therapy