CICMH Spotlight Interview With Mood Walks
Mood Walks for Campus Mental Health is a province-wide initiative that promotes physical activity in nature, or “green exercise,” as a way to improve both physical and mental health.
The program provides training and support for postsecondary institutions to launch educational hiking programs, connect with local resources, find volunteers, and explore nearby trails and green spaces. This is the third version of the program over the past several years. Previous programs focused on the same concept but on different demographics such as senior citizens and children in grade schools.
The focus of the program is to help students that are experiencing or at risk of mental health issues while attending university or college. Staff at the university or college are trained to ensure that the program can continue year over year and that students will be able to access the program going forward. The pilot year includes support of up to $500 for the program to help facilitate training and transportation costs which is expected to be matched by the Moodwalk groups.
“As we begin to reach out to campuses across Ontario, we have received some really positive feedback from both the staff and students” said Bojana Milanovic, the interim program manager of the Moodwalks program, who spoke with us about the program’s progress and challenges. “Going forward we are focused on making sure that the staff are able to train others to ensure the program continues and on addressing the need for transportation to hiking trails.”
Queens University in Kingston, Ontario is one of the first few schools to look into adopting the program and is working with Moodwalks to integrate the program not just as a part of its mental health wellness programs, but with other departments such as athletics as well.
The link between physical activity and mental health wellness is well documented. In fact, daily walks can be as effective in treating mild cases of depression as taking an antidepressant and if you have green space within 1 km of your home, you are 30% less likely to suffer from anxiety. An increasing body of evidence suggests that one of the best ways to improve your mental well-being is by simply spending more time outdoors.
Moodwalks is led by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario, in partnership with Hike Ontario, Conservation Ontario, the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health, and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.
To learn more about the program and ways to get involved, visit: www.moodwalks.ca