At Walk & Talks, run by Fife Justice Social Work, people who are subject to CPO’s meet up to discuss the challenges they’re facing. In this piece, group members and staff share an insight into the walks, what they offer to those taking part, and why they’ve become such an important part of the team’s work.
Aimee Ross – Fife Connect Project Co-ordinator:
Walk & Talks have long been a pivotal part of the Women’s Justice Team. They are held on the last Friday of every month, and we send an open invitation to all the women we are working with (along with their worker). The location is different every month (often at the beach or in a park), and the women help select the location of the next walk, many of which are places they have never had the opportunity to visit before. Our Walk & Talks are always well attended – we help with transport to give everyone the opportunity to attend, we embrace the Scottish weather (rain, hail or shine!) and share food, tea and coffee and the end of each walk. Support agencies (such as Sexual Health and Venture Trust) are sometimes also invited along to chat with group members during the session, and it is felt that the Walk and Talk provides a supportive and safe environment for these conversations to take place.
Here are some thoughts from MN who has been a regular group member at the Walk and Talk:
“I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the walk and talk, and personally found it very therapeutic. I was able to catch up with girls I knew from previous group meetings, and it also gave me the opportunity to meet new ladies. We all had the chance to mingle and have a good chat. It was an incredibly positive way in bringing people together and for the girls who may be apprehensive about being in a group activity situation, it provided a relaxed atmosphere, out in the open and surrounded by nature, stopping for a picnic adjacent to the beach provided a tranquil setting……until the hilarity took over of course, Loved it! I would have no hesitation in doing this again and will certainly recommend this type of activity to anyone who felt dubious about it. I have since been back to the location to walk my dog”
Reflections from Seonaid Peddie – Assistant Psychologist, Fife Women’s Justice Team
Spending time in nature has been promoted to bring out a range of psychological benefits, research evidencing the positive impact of green (accessible areas with natural vegetation) and blue (outdoor water environments) spaces on our health. As such, nature-based interventions have grown in popularity in the last decade; a systematic review found that nature-based therapies significantly impact mental health outcomes, ranging from common to severe, including reducing symptoms of depressive mood and anxiety, and increasing positive affect. Additionally, this improvement has been replicated across the lifespan, in both those with pre-existing mental health outcomes and as well as healthy adults, suggesting nature-based interventions may act as an effective management of mental health difficulties as well as a preventative approach to help people stay well.
There are several theories that underpin this positive impact. Intentional and purposeful activity in green and blue spaces offers opportunities for increased social contact and perceived personal achievement, both of which are important resources linked to improved wellbeing. It has also been suggested that green and blue spaces have a restorative quality that benefits well-being and reduces stress. Attention Restoration Theory (ART) posits that directed attention in day-today life leads to cognitive fatigue and increased likelihood of stress. Natural surroundings can offer an intrinsically immersive environment which promotes ‘involuntary attention’, therefore promoting recovery from cognitive fatigue.
Routine walks in green spaces, such as the Walk & Talk group, although not a therapeutic intervention, can offer protected time to facilitate these key factors that contribute to well-being. Importantly, the group offers effective management of potential barriers those with mental health difficulties and other psychosocial stressors may have when trying to engage with nature in an intentional way. Potential barriers; for example, fears around personal safety, social anxiety, fatigue, and difficulties with motivation are lessened by taking part in the Walk & Talk group. Service users being supported physically by their key workers to attend, variable locations and lengths of walks, and multiple staff in attendance all allow for a boundary and psychologically safe space to be developed which increases the likelihood of individuals in the service to reap the benefits of green spaces in their communities.
Since Covid, the team have adjusted the way they work one to one with service users and walk and talks are also offered on a one-to-one basis.