This year on Bell Let’s Talk Day, South Nation Conservation (SNC) is joining the conversation around mental health and promoting the benefits of being outdoors.

The 2022 Bell Let’s Talk Day takes place on January 26, with a continued focus for increased awareness around mental health and mental illness, while encouraging Canadians and people worldwide to keep listening, keep talking and keep being there for ourselves and each other. Bell donates five cents to Canadian mental health programs for every social media post that uses #BellLetsTalk during the world’s largest conversation about mental health. Bell Let’s Talk Day is a nationally recognized event that focuses on supporting mental health through the promotion of anti-stigma language and action, access to support programs and funding for research, all while broadening discussion about mental health.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, higher levels of depression are reported during winter months. Combined with the ongoing pandemic and recent restrictions, people may be feeling more anxious and stressed. Spending time in nature, getting more exercise, and maximizing your exposure to sunlight are some of the ways to combat your winter blues, depression, stress, and anxiety.

“Stepping into nature and staying active is more important now, than ever” explains Shannon Gutoskie, SNC’s Communications Specialist. “Nature can enhance our health and happiness. Consider a healthy hike at a Conservation Area to experience the health and wellness benefits that walking through a forest can provide.”

The following SNC Conservation Area trails are open and maintained: W.E Burton and J. Henry Tweed in Russell; Two Creeks Forest and Robert Graham Forest in South Dundas; Warwick Forest in North Stormont; and the Oschmann Forest in North Dundas. SNC also has agreements with municipalities to groom other trails this winter, including Nokomis Park in Limoges and the Russell Recreational Trail.

Visitors should continue to take precautions when visiting parks: avoid congregating in groups, practice physical distancing, and consider visiting at another time if the parking lot is full.

“To help everyone enjoy outdoor experiences, please be respectful towards other visitors. Many people get outdoors to enjoy nature and seek some solitude. Excessive noise, unleashed pets, and obstructive behaviour can take away from the experience, and you never know just how important that experience may be for some,” says Gutoskie.