#walkthetalk2015 is an idea that has been brewing for some time; I was starting to become more and more aware of people saying that psychologists needed to stand up and speak out more, particularly at a political level. Many psychologists do speak out, but I think we often tread a fine line when trying to be clear about whom we are representing when we speak out. For example, I am employed by the NHS, I work at Lancaster University, I am editor of Clinical Psychology Forum and Director of the Division of Clinical Psychology’s Professional Standards Unit. This means when I personally speak out on a topic, I have to be clear whether I am speaking on behalf of these groups or as an individual. In this case, I am speaking as a clinical psychologist, aware of the importance of social issues and keen to affect change at a social level. I want to be able to use the skills I learned through training (and life) to help develop a more psychologically sound social system. If we work harder at a policy level, we can make a better environment for all of us.
We are all aware that social and financial struggles can have a huge impact on a person’s psychological wellbeing. If we are to make a difference in individual wellbeing, we must also make a difference at a societal level. We have a responsibility to do so. We say these things easily, but stepping from words to actions is a whole other challenge! This is where #walkthetalk2015 comes in, it is an opportunity to step outside, unite and walk together in the name of social justice.
The British Psychological Society recently released a Presidential address which highlighted issues of social justice with comments such as:
We know that psychological health and wellbeing are largely dependent on our social circumstances. Especially in this period of economic austerity, we must work collectively to create a more humane society: to reduce or eliminate poverty, especially childhood poverty, and to reduce financial and social inequality
There are also other psychology groups such as Psychologists Against Austerity who are raising the importance of psychological wellbeing not just being focussed at an individual level:
Mental health is not simply an individual brain issue, it is an issue which involves all aspects of how our society is set up, including: housing, welfare, families, intergenerational connections, communities, inclusion, equality, education and employment
#walkthetalk2015 is a way of publicly uniting to draw attention to these issues. The plan is to walk the 100miles from the British Psychological Society office in Leicester to the British Psychological Society office in London over the course of 5 days (17th-21st August), sleeping out along the way. The aim is to highlight three issues in particular:
•The Benefits System
Please join us for this walk. The more people involved, the more likely we are to actually make a difference here. Let’s unite to make a society which cares for all. We all know there are social problems which need addressing, we know there as a strong relationship between social problems and psychological wellbeing. Most of all, we have a collective societal responsibility to act and the solutions often lie in the hands of policymakers. Let’s unite, mobilise and ensure policy makers walk the talk!