Walking For Mental Health In The Shoalhaven

Mon Feb 20 , 2017

Demonstrating that physical fitness and social interaction are keys to fighting mental health problems, Flourish Australia has brought together a group of people who have “laced up” for a “Nowra to Ulladulla” mental health walking challenge.

Starting in early November last year and finishing on Wednesday this week (22 February), the initiative involves two teams competing against each other to simulate a 70 kilometre walk between Flourish Australia’s Shoalhaven’s centres in Nowra and Ulladulla.

To achieve the required distance, entrants have been participating in regular weekly walks along the Shoalhaven River at Nowra, using pedometers so cumulative distances can be tracked.

Finish line anticipation is running high with latest data showing the Flourish Australia “Blue Team” fractionally ahead of the Flourish Australia “Red Team”. However, Red Team insiders say their tail-end step-count has picked up dramatically, as losing to their Blue Team friends is unthinkable!

“The walking challenge started as a loose idea last year when we received a $1,000 grant to spend on healthy living,” Flourish Australia Shoalhaven Manager Helen Backhouse said.

“We thought that buying pedometers and shoes for participants would be worthwhile, and from that came the idea of a walking challenge.

“You can’t put a value on the physical, social and mental benefits the participants have gained, given that all are people with a lived experience of a mental health issue.

“Most importantly, we’re spreading a message about the importance of social and physical activity when it comes to better mental health, and the broader supports and services that are available through community providers such as Flourish Australia.”

One of the walkers is 24 year old Nowra man Ash Demech, a Flourish Australia support participant. Since becoming involved with Flourish Australia in early 2016 Ash has found somewhere stable to live, secured part time employment and connected with numerous community and social activities to stay well – including the Nowra to Ulladulla walking challenge.

“Simple things such as walking and socialising with other people make the days so much better,” Ash said.

“The more you get involved with social and recreational activities the better you feel. It beats languishing at home or in a hospital bed.

“The walking challenge has been one of many things I’ve done to turn my life around since getting involved with Flourish Australia.”

Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley applauded the walk.

“Anything that promotes healthy living and social activity in regional areas where isolation and mental health issues can be problems is a good thing,” Mayor Findley said.

“This initiative spreads the word that support is out there if you want to connect with the community and enjoy better mental health.”

Flourish Australia said it was looking at continuing the walking concept in different parts of the Shoalhaven, with an event in winter to mark the arrival of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) mental health support services across the Shoalhaven from July 2017.

The arrival of the Commonwealth funded NDIS will enable local people with a range of mental health issues to obtain even more day-to-day living, accommodation, educational, and vocational support through Flourish Australia.

“The arrival of the NDIS in the Shoalhaven will be a game-changer in terms of mental health support,” Ms Backhouse added.

“It’s important that people find out what help is available.”

Anyone wanting information on the NDIS and how people with mental health issues can benefit can contact Flourish Australia on 9393 9535 (local call).


Media outlets are invited to capture supporters cheer the walk participants over the finish line at 11.00am, Wednesday 22 February, at the Flourish Australia Nowra Office (47 Worrigee St, Nowra).

Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley will present prizes to participants.


Flourish Australia (formerly RichmondPRA) is a not-for-profit organisation providing support programs, employment, accommodation and hope for people with mental health issues in New South Wales and Queensland. Advocating community-based assistance, it is a leading mental health support provider that has been in operation for nearly 60 years.