Author Topic: Hiking and children's mental health  (Read 347 times)

WILDWALKINGUK

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 46
Hiking and children's mental health
« on: 06:49:21, 08/02/20 »

It's Children's Mental Health Week so it made us think about how the long distance walking we do has affected our children. We've 4 children between 7 and 20 years old and none off them seem to be struggling too much with life. We put it down to the mental strength you have to develop to complete the long distance wild camping trips we do. We've written more about it in the link below and would appreciate your opinions as well.

https://wildwalkinguk.com/2020/02/02/long-distance-walking-improves-childrens-mental-health/

harland

  • Veteran Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 896
Re: Hiking and children's mental health
« Reply #1 on: 08:44:53, 08/02/20 »
At the outset can I say that I have absolutely no medical knowledge.  I was brought up being in a caravan in farmers fields/campsites at weekends, walking although not long distances but up Snowden etc, potholing with my father, doing all the normal things in the Scout movement before H&S etc.  Whilst I think that these activities have made me confident (especially the Scouts) in the outdoors I am not sure that it has affected my mental wellbeing although I haven't had any issues in the first 72 years. So whilst it is an interesting piece and I would like to believe it is true I am a natural non-believer that makes me need more evidence to prove your belief. 

Now I may upset a few people on here but it is not meant to.  When I was at work it almost came as a "badge of honour" that someone was suffering with "stress" (almost boasting that you couldn't be working hard enough if you weren't suffering) whereas in previous years people "coped" individually - I know that a response is likely to be that they were suffering but kept quiet about it.  Please don't beat me up for my ignorance on this issue!

Bigfoot_Mike

  • Veteran Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1231
Re: Hiking and children's mental health
« Reply #2 on: 09:54:44, 08/02/20 »
Being in the outdoors and hiking generally reduces stress and lowers blood pressure, although there are sometimes situations when the opposite is true. While I am sure that walking generally helps with mental health, it canít be a panacea for everything. Some mental illnesses have underlying physical causes that wonít be cured by walking, although symptoms may be alleviated. I have seen Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder and severe depression in my family and friends and going out walking as a kid wouldnít have fixed these conditions. However, I do believe that for most people being outdoors and walking has a positive effect on mental health for most people (I donít have any evidence for this).

gunwharfman

  • Veteran Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3718
Re: Hiking and children's mental health
« Reply #3 on: 10:19:40, 08/02/20 »
Walking as described MAY help people to maintain what is called 'good mental health' but I'm confident that this is just 'another way forward' like so many other 'ways forward' and for me its just too simplistic. Although I'm sure all of these projects are done with the best of intentions and that they do help some people, at another level its also just marketing, 'selling' something, an idea, a strategy etc, to the public. Some people may benefit but others will be disappointed, that I'm sure will be the reality. Individual people, the way they grow up, their genetic makeup, their work and life experiences they go through and so on I believe are the nuts and bolts of our lives from birth to death. These complexities I believe are so little understood in the way they personally affect us, much more than most of us would perhaps even dare to admit, even to ourselves. I just cannot see how 'mental health problems' can be pinned down to a few factors, I believe it's far more multi-complex than that. I personally wouldn't in any way decry walking, running and doing sport in general and a lot of other things as well, but I have always accepted in my later years (NB I too am not an expert, I can only write an opinion) that because people are individuals and I actually believe they are, mental health strategies need to be sorted out mostly for individuals!! I've worked with people with 'mental health problems' since the age of 17 and I have had many strategies and cures (ECT for example) thrust at me and have experienced all sorts of 'ideas,' 'beliefs', 'breakthroughs,' 'wonder drugs,' 'using different words to describe the problems' etc, etc, etc, you name it, I sure I've been part of it at some part in my life? 75 years later I can only conclude that 'we' are no further forward than we were 2000 or more years ago. Of course, we have changed the external factors, our attitudes, our caring styles, drugs, various types and forms of help, etc, etc which appear to help some people but it has never seemed to me that we have made any 'real' progress in what actually goes on inside the human body and mind. I can only ramble on and cannot argue my views effectively, I'm just not clever enough or educated enough to do that, I like most people have arrived at a personal view, and that's all I have, a personal view.   

Little Foot

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 101
Re: Hiking and children's mental health
« Reply #4 on: 12:20:58, 08/02/20 »
I've just got into watching Abbie Barnes on YouTube. She documents her long distance walks, amongst things, and they are really easy to watch. They are simple, interesting and informative. One of the topics she touches on in the various mediums she uses is mental health, as she has suffered from problems in the past, quite severely. She has a Facebook page and podcasts on The Great Outdoors occasionally about the subject too.

I doubt Wildwalkinguk or Abbie Barnes are saying walking is a complete fix for mental health issues as obviously they can be complex and unique to individuals, but I do believe that it helps subdue the stresses of everyday life by giving a person time to think of what is important in life, throwing new challenges to overcome and allowing them to see and witness things that give simple pleasures, such as wildlife or conversations with others on their path.

We all know how a warm bowl of soup after a hard day's hike tastes so much better and feels so much more rewarding to how it tastes plonked in front of a screen watching that box.

Quite simply, a good walk gives a person breathing room from the build up of stress from modern life, but it can't be a cure for problems where the triggers are more internal.

I am trying to introduce my son to walking more, as he suffered from problems at a very young age mainly due to bullying which changed his personality and that started to affect his mental health. He has now started seniors and left the majority of problems with the old school behind, but the past still haunts him, so I am hoping doing LDWs will give him a focus.

GinAndPlatonic

  • Veteran Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 518
Re: Hiking and children's mental health
« Reply #5 on: 13:39:05, 08/02/20 »
I really think any walking outdoors come rain or shine is of benefit to all children and adults. It has to be part of a rounded life style though and that can be very difficult to accomplish, what with all the pressures laid on us through living in this day & age.
I`m sure if people of any age are in a high pressure environment, either at work or in the home,  then walking can be an antidote to some of the symptoms that sort of life can bring about, but not a cure.

I think we live in an age where children are put under enormous pressure for all sorts of reasons. Mostly it is to keep up at all costs with what our culture perceives as important, such as exam results, league tables, looking good on social media etc. The list is endless. It is all of our own making. I mean our, as in our culture.

There`s so much about walking that is great for us all and like Little Foot said, gives us breathing space, literally and mentally. My daughter still remembers some walks we did when she was only 6 years of age and finishing a walk up Pen Y Fan on a freezing cold day, during which she was brought to tears at one point, but I believe when she looks back on that, it is with some pride.

I thought school was tough when I was a kid, but compared to pressures on our children at school today it wasn`t so bad after all. Unless I need to take my rose tinted glasses off. ?
Walking for me is an antidote to all that rushing around in life that sometimes happens.

ninthace

  • Veteran Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4915
Re: Hiking and children's mental health
« Reply #6 on: 13:47:18, 08/02/20 »
As a teenager, walking spoiled my mental health.  An experience on Dartmoor resulted in a phobia of being caught in poor visibility.  After that, as far as possible, I avoided walking in poor viz until my 50s, even with a group.  The advent of modern navaids and old age has largely cured me.  Now, provided I have the right gear I positively enjoy the challenge.
Solvitur Ambulando

Ridge

  • Veteran Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7060
Re: Hiking and children's mental health
« Reply #7 on: 13:53:04, 08/02/20 »
Good posts Little Foot and G&P.


Kids are under a huge amount of pressure these days. My wife teaches 4 and 5 year olds and is constantly talking about the amount of work that they are expected to do.
Over hill, over dale. Thorough brush, thorough brier....
I do wander every where

GinAndPlatonic

  • Veteran Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 518
Re: Hiking and children's mental health
« Reply #8 on: 16:55:55, 08/02/20 »
Good posts Little Foot and G&P.


Kids are under a huge amount of pressure these days. My wife teaches 4 and 5 year olds and is constantly talking about the amount of work that they are expected to do.
& I wonder if some of that pressure is taken on by your wife too, having to monitor, and deal with watching the children cope with it all. I really do feel for professionals in all walks of life, but I get the feeling that teaching can be a minefield at times, having to accommodate parents expectations along with all the expectations of the education system, that is loaded onto teachers..?
Walking for me is an antidote to all that rushing around in life that sometimes happens.

Ridge

  • Veteran Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7060
Re: Hiking and children's mental health
« Reply #9 on: 17:34:41, 08/02/20 »
In September she has to do a baseline assessment on each child, looking at 30 different areas and assessing their ability in each one. That is 30 assessments on each of 30 children, but then they have to 'manipulate' the figures as there are some areas where you are not allowed to be good at one thing and not another, so if your 'fine motor skills' are not of a high enough standard you can not be good at writing even if you are a 4 year old prodigy and your first novel has just won the Booker Prize.


As she has just said to me, 'In their first year at school we should be concentrating on their personal, social and physical development, instead we have to do literacy and numeracy'.



 
Over hill, over dale. Thorough brush, thorough brier....
I do wander every where

gunwharfman

  • Veteran Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3718
Re: Hiking and children's mental health
« Reply #10 on: 18:35:12, 08/02/20 »
From my last entry, all of the positive information that has been offered used to be called 'good enough life experiences' which was the support offered and/or advised for people going through various types and levels of 'personal difficulty.' Nowadays, the term 'mental health problems' often seems to be used as a kind of umbrella term that tries to encompass everything, from basic feelings and emotions that all of us may feel at some point in their life, at one end of a spectrum to the words 'mental illness' at the other with every other 'human difficulty' in between. The language used today will constantly change as it has done since I was a boy and my concern is that people will continue to be dragged under 'mental health' headings when they may or may not have such problems in the first place? In the old day's people and even doctors used to say 'grow up' or 'pull yourself together' when faced with a lot of behaviours, it's now professionally more complicated than that but less and less helping services are offered. Many people are more enlightened to the complexity of it all, but at the same time, there are those who will just dismiss the people suffering the problems as 'nutters,' so this dismissive section of society may have diminished over past decades but I think it's now beginning a resurgence and a hardening of opinion. Which is also where politics comes in, it would appear to me that as we move to a more authoritarian and populist agenda its possible that sympathy and the desire to help will not get better?

GinAndPlatonic

  • Veteran Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 518
Re: Hiking and children's mental health
« Reply #11 on: 18:39:39, 08/02/20 »

As she has just said to me, 'In their first year at school we should be concentrating on their personal, social and physical development, instead we have to do literacy and numeracy'.
I really do think the system is taking much away from young children, their humanness. At the same time placing the responsibility of doing that, onto teachers.I reckon it`s often only being outdoors, moving & walking, that these enforced structures, that our education system places on people, in classrooms, are stripped away. This allows everyone to start behaving in a more natural & ralaxed way. It`s has to be good for the spirit. :) My daughter returned home form a spiritual retreat a while back with her class mates and  teachers. She told me it was fun as the teachers ended up being more like friends.

So no tests, no league tables, just some subtle guidance, which was not detected as such from the pupils. ?
Walking for me is an antidote to all that rushing around in life that sometimes happens.

WILDWALKINGUK

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 46
Re: Hiking and children's mental health
« Reply #12 on: 08:39:46, 09/02/20 »
Really interesting points. My wife is a teacher too (secondary) and often feels frustrated at the lack of support for young people's mental health in education.


I think the point I'm trying to make in the post is not that walking can fix mental health issues (I agree that the causes are often deep, complex and at times genetic), but that for children, opportunities to challenge themselves in wild and remote places can help to build self-confidence and resilience. These qualities may help the child to cope better with other challenges in different areas of their life. I absolutely agree that it is not as simplistic as walking fixes everything. But might it, in some cases, prevent later difficulties?


Walking helps children to value the simple things in life - warmth, food, shelter, rest - and to realise what is fundamentally important. It is great bonding time for us as a family, and it helps them to realise that they can face a challenge and complete it.