This article originally appeared on The Trek, which can be read here: https://thetrek.co/appalachian-trail/help-me-hike-for-mental-health/
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, almost one in five adults in the U.S. lives with some kind of mental illness, ranging from mild to debilitating. Women, young people, and people of two or more races represent the populations in the U.S. with the highest rates of mental illness.
OK, so now you may be asking, “Mr. Wes, what do these shocking facts about mental illness have to do with hiking or backpacking?” Well, my wonderful reader, a Harvard Medical School study found that even short amounts of time in nature can have a significant, positive effect on one’s mental health. Dr. Jason Strauss says that “Nature can have a powerful effect on our mental state and there are many ways to tap into it.”
This means that spending significant time in nature can potentially have a significant positive impact on one’s mental health. This is also why I chose to partner with Hike for Mental Health.
Why Hike for Mental Health?
Founded by Leo Walker, Tom Kennedy, and Nancy Kozanecki, Hike for Mental Health is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is “…born of a single vision: a world in which everyone, including those who suffer from mental illness, can find the simple joy of living.”
The organization’s mission is three-fold:
- Increase public awareness of the challenges and suffering faced by those afflicted by mental illness and their families
- Increase public appreciation for and responsible use of wilderness trails
- Raise funds by coordinating fundraising hikes in order to prevent and alleviate the pain caused by mental illness and to maintain and preserve wilderness trails
In an effort to achieve these goals, Hike for Mental Health helps organize and promote fundraising wilderness hikes where 100% of the donated proceeds go to the causes of the organization’s mission.
In other words: hikers hike, people donate, and the funds go to the cause.
Since Hike for Mental Health is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, you can rest assured that 100% of your donation goes towards the causes. 80% of the funds raised goes towards mental illness research and the remaining 20% goes toward the nonprofit organizations that operate and maintain our nation’s long trails (the Appalachian Trail Conference, the Continental Divide Coalition, and the Pacific Crest Trail Association).
OK, so there is a lot of mental illness in the U.S., being out in nature can help people, and Hike for Mental Health tries to combine those two things into a single mission to help others. So, where do I come in? Why am I doing this? Well, besides wanting to give back to society while I take what is essentially a five-month vacation, these issues hit very close to home for me. I want to tell you about my fiancé, Destinee.
Destinee is an amazing, intelligent, funny, kind, and caring person who I love very much. She is a young woman of color with a college degree who likes to paint. She is a mother of two dogs, three gerbils, and a wild street cat. And she has a mental illness. But this does not make her any less of a wonderful person. It is not a fault or a flaw; just a feature, a characteristic that she must live with all her life.
So really, this fundraiser is for her. I want to do something to show her I care and I want to help her and other people like her to get the treatment and care they need and deserve.
So, here it is. This is the hardest part of this post. This is the part where I ask for your money. Hike for Mental Health is a wonderful organization that I have partnered with because I believe in their mission and I trust their ethics. Every single penny of your donation will go towards the causes. I get nothing, Hike for Mental Health as a company gets nothing. Everything goes towards mental health research and our nation’s long trails, without which we couldn’t do these amazing fundraising drives.
So, I must respectfully, humbly, graciously ask for your donations. Don’t do it for me, don’t do it for you, but do it for the people in your lives who live every single day with a mental illness because those are the people who need it most. Please consider a donation. Thank you very much!