Walk and Talk: Mental health trekking group blossoming in Burnley
It was on a walk to Hebden Bridge with a mate that Maj Mahmood came up with the concept for his mental health group, Walk and Talk. "I've always enjoyed trekking [and], as we were walking, we shared our problems to each other," said Maj. "At the end of that day, both of us felt good: that's when it hit me."
A free mental health charity group which seeks not only to raise awareness of mental health issues but which also provides a safe, friendly, and welcoming environment in which people can come together and chat whilst on healthy, fulfilling walks, Walk and Talk has blossomed quickly since it was started last year.
The group's first walk was last Halloween. "I take people out on walks in our beautiful countryside and further afield: we've trekked all the biggest mountains in England," explained Maj. " After a good walk everyone feels a lot better, plus they get to talk to people and make friends. I'm getting the community out together and fit and healthy."
Maj has always raised money for charity, but last year, he tragically lost his best friend, Simon Walker, and another mate, Kyle Dixon, to mental health issues. Focusing his benevolent fundraising efforts to raising money for CALM (The Campaign Against Living Miserably - the UK's leading campaign for the prevention of male suicide), Maj has since raised £4,000 for the charity.
But that was just the start.
"Because I was raising awareness for mental health, I was getting people messaging me all the time wanting to talk," said Maj. "We used to go to the pub, which [can] obviously make things worse. One weekend I invited my mate to walk with me to Hebden Bridge and back from Nelson." And with that, Walk and Talk was born.
Now a 1,500-strong Facebook group, Walk and Talk is open to absolutely anyone, with a group of around 130 people recently completing their 'Step out against Stigma' walk to mark the end of Mental Health Week. This coming October, Maj will also be walking the Great Wall of China for the Mental Health Foundation.
"People have made friends for life on my walks," said Maj. "I just want people to know there is help out there."