Adventure - Therapy in its own right
This week is Mental Health Week in Australia, which makes it the perfect time to have an open discussion on mental health while continuing to raise awareness of mental health issues in the community.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics states that:
- One in Five (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year. . Almost half (45%) Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime
- The most common mental illnesses are depressive, anxiety and substance use disorder and these three types of mental illnesses often occur in combination. .
- 54% of people with mental illness do not access any treatment. This is worsened by delayed treatment due to serious problems in detection and accurate diagnosis.
- The proportion of people with mental illness accessing treatment is half that of people with physical disorders . Depression is the number one cause of non-fatal disability in Australia (23%)
Over the coming decades, we will all bare the growing economic and social burden of physical and mental illness, including covering drug costs, emergency room visits, hospital and long-term care, and lost work productivity.
Is there a way to prevent it?
As a starting point, access to natural environments in different forms is critical for fostering physical activity and helping reap the many physical and mental benefits of the natural world. Having a mental health problem doesn’t have to mean staying indoors and not trying to challenge your limits at all. Nature can be a saviour for some and adventure can engage a participants’ body and emotions offering a relatively holistic and helpful experience for participants.
Advocating the outdoors as an alternative to medicine and therapy, would be irresponsible – these things are essential for treating a mental health condition; however, the power of adventure and nature-based therapies cannot be underestimated.
Study after study is showing what type of impact the natural world around us can have on our mental state, hence the ever increasing popularity of nature-based therapies such as Nature Immersion, Mindfulness, Exploration, Connecting to Country, Eco-Therapy, Reflection & Silent Walks, Sound Healing, Barefoot Hiking, Sensory Activities and Nature Play. (source)
By immersing oneself in nature, we can limit the stressors of daily life. We benefit through feelings of relaxation, mindfulness and enhanced well-being. We can increase feelings of confidence, courage, resilience and connectedness. With self and with others. The human body and brain have evolved to have a positive reaction to natural patterns (forests, seasons, tides, day and night) so even just being outside can make a subtle shift in our moods, returning the body to its normal circadian rhythm, helping to reduce stress.
Adventure activities allow us to confront perceived limitations and push past them. What does surfing or climbing have to do with depression? How does rafting or hiking help treat anxiety?
Activities like these help develop self- efficacy and grit. Self-efficacy, our belief in our ability to persevere and succeed, translates to a happier and healthier life. Adventure challenge us to overcome perceived limitations and ultimately build self-confidence. Skills and coping methods learned through adventure have the potential to become be a profound, therapeutic moment promoting lasting change.
“By learning to accept my physical discomfort of being in the wilderness, I learned to cope with my emotional discomfort so it would no longer hinder me from living.”
During this journey over the past three years, we have had the privilege of meeting other women that have chosen adventure as a way of life, to create change individually, locally and globally.
These women do not fall under a stereotype, as they are of all different ages, shapes, sizes, colours, cultures, and skill levels. However, their thirst for pursuing adventure as a potent precursor to change, in whatever form it takes, is our point of unity and connection.
Follow our series this week and meet some of the Australian women currently using adventure to create awareness around Mental Health while supporting campaign initiatives that will have a profound effect in the future.
If you need assistance you can contact the following organisations:
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2009). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 4326.0, 2007. ABS: Canberra.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2014). Australia’s Health 2014. AIHW: Canberra.
Commonwealth of Australia. (2010). National Mental Health Report 2010. Canberra, Australia.