Three years ago, I began researching opportunities to use coaching and outdoor adventures as a potential tool for healing and growth, for people who were homeless. I eventually reached a conclusion that for me to be most effective, participants needed to have somewhere to live as well as have access to support for any health problems being experienced. With this stability, it was clear that the improvements in physical and mental health could be both transforming and sustainable. That said, the size of the problem seemed overwhelming. I felt I was in over my head.
Last year I had the chance to coach with such folks on a group and individual level, people who I had met in support groups for therapy I was doing. The results were wholly positive. Fast forward six months and inspired by progress, a small team of advisors, leaders and supporters has come together. I've decided to take a role as Executive Director of our group which we are calling 'Mountain Owl'.
Things have been moving along quickly. We now have an office in Seattle at St Paul's Church on 65th Avenue, Ballard. We have participants and programs lined up with supporters throughout the state. I'm joined by Susan Dutro, who has taken on the role of program manager. We are currently getting our legal documents filed with the state of Washington and expect to obtain IRS 501 3c status in 2016.
Our mission is: To Serve communities by helping individuals who experience mental health issues such as: depression, anxiety, trauma and addictions, to heal and recover, through a combination of nature-based coaching, training and outdoor adventures.
Some of our 'First 100 days' objectives including establishing programs, formalizing criteria for participants as well as developing our communications and fundraising strategies. We are working with other non-profits and medical institutions as well as with outfitters, instructors and outdoor recreational partners.
As well as offering programs, it's our intention to use education to create awareness of how impactful these health issues are on our communities, as well as how effective outdoor activities can be - not simply in alleviating individual suffering, but also helping to improve societal problems such as crime, homelessness, violence and suicide.
The cost of mental health issues is hidden. In the United States, 40 people commit suicide every day (22 of these are military veterans). This is a problem which effects everyone. Nature based therapies and programs have been shown to be some of the most effective solutions to helping people recover and to live happy productive lives.
Richard Louv has a quote that speaks to us, "Research suggests that exposure to the natural world – including nearby nature in cities – helps improve human health, well-being, and intellectual capacity in ways that science is only recently beginning to understand".
Science doesn't yet know the fullest benefits of time spent in nature. What I have seen in my own life and the lives of others is that nature has the power to transform lives. This is what we hope to achieve.