Gina's story

A smiling young woman, outdoors surrounded by other people

I am a scientist, which means I spend a lot of my time working in the lab or writing reports at my desk under pressure from tight deadlines. I used to have little interaction with people which took its toll and I developed depression.

I often sat at home and cried on the weekend, without knowing what to do and lacking motivation to do anything. I felt so lonely as I didn’t have any real social connections.

Luckily, I joined my local Ramblers group about two years ago. Going on my first walk was frightening as I felt like an outsider, but afterwards I felt fantastic as the group was really friendly.

Walking with other people helped me to feel like myself again. I didn’t plan to make friends, but it came naturally. Once you keep going along on walks, you become absorbed into the group.

Being in nature in beautiful surroundings really relaxes me and so I feel able to reach out to other people without any pressure.

It is difficult to open up, but you can start talking about mental health in your own way. I said, “I feel isolated and lonely” and then started to realise that other people feel that way too. Everyone has ups and downs and we all have different things to deal with. I soon understood that I am not alone.

Having people to talk to makes me feel much more comfortable, like I belong to a community and am no longer isolated.

There is still a lot of stigma about mental health. I’ve opened up about my depression to my close friends and family, but I don’t always feel able to talk about it.

I like being able to walk with other people and not always having to talk but being with them makes me feel safe. The walking is not too demanding, and you don’t have to be fit to do it.

Since I joined, I have gone on many walks around Cambridge, learning how to communicate with people again. I have also visited different parts of England which I could not have done on my own. We organise weekends away on a regular basis.

I now feel in a much better place and I am actively involved with the group and this motivates me in all aspects of life, not just the social side.

Walking fills your mind with energy and positive thoughts. I would definitely encourage more people who are struggling with their mental health to get out walking and talking. It has the potential to literally save lives.

Gina is a member of the Cambridge Ramblers. You can start walking with a local Ramblers group in your area. Find a walk near you.