The psychologists walking 100 miles to fight austerity’s impact on mental health

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Psychologists embark on a mental health march to raise awareness of the devastating effect that cuts are having on their patients

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For most psychologists, the working week is varied, but mostly predictable, with patient appointments, letters and clinical sessions. But for Stephen Weatherhead, a 37-year-old clinical psychologist working in Lancaster, and for a lot of other psychologists, this week is going to involve walking 100 miles from Leicester to London, sleeping rough, and meeting dozens of people along the way.

Walk the Talk, an awareness-raising trek from the British Psychological Society (BPS) offices in Leicester to its headquarters in the capital, will take in visits to food banks, supported housing, homelessness services and mental health centres, recording testimonies from people whose psychological wellbeing has been jeopardised by the benefits system and Work Programme.

Weatherhead and several other clinical psychologists had long been troubled by the effect of sanctions, the Work Programme and austerity on their patients, and felt people were wary of speaking out. Weatherhead runs a private practice working with people with traumatic brain injuries, but through work in the NHS and Lancaster University, has seen a spectrum of mental health problems resulting from poverty. After seeing a TED talk by Lawrence Lessig, who walked 185 miles to protest against the unfairness of the US electoral system, Weatherhead adopted the idea, and a plan, and then a route, were devised.

Snaking down from the Midlands, the participants will meet people at points on the route, so other psychologists, social workers, and anyone who agrees with their concerns, can join the march.

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