How being in nature can help with your mental health

Aimed at bringing out the best in young people who have mild to moderate mood disorders, the Anasazi Foundation Wilderness Program encourages healing, understanding and positive behaviour management.

Who is it for?

The program focuses on nurturing youth aged 12-17 and young adults aged 18-25. Personal issues vary but include depression, self-harming, lack of motivation, drug or alcohol abuse, bipolar, relational problems with family and issues with school. Anasazi work doesn’t just focus on the young person, it also focuses on the family of the young person. The services offered help families affected by mood disorders to come to a level of understanding and address their mental health needs.

The non-profit based organisation is based in Arizona and uses Native American teachings to help families heal together in a primitive and natural environment without the distractions of everyday life.

What does the program aim to achieve?

The services offered by Anasazi help families to improve communication, work together and move forward so future drug and substance abuse can be prevented and self-harm is replaced by a journey towards self-love and discovery.  The scenic and non-punitive environment helps the participants to make positive personal changes and encourages them to walk forward without looking back at their mistakes. By inviting the parents to also take part in the wilderness program, the foundation can help families improve communication, mothers, fathers and care givers to develop their parenting skills, and children and young people to express their emotions and concerns in a safe,non-judgemental environment.

The young people stay for a minimum of 50 days in order to develop new healthy habits, build on already positive personality traits and learn important life skills.

Their time in the wilderness helps them develop practical skills like cooking, outdoor survival skills, such as shelter building and personal responsibility. By the end of the program they will have an understanding of repentance, unconditional love, forgiveness and consequence.

The program tackles their issues by giving participants the space to grow, to cooperate with others and to develop their social skills. All the young people are assigned a personal counsellor who they can confide in. This counsellor (shadow) is fully qualified and works with parents and other staff to ensure every young person gets the care they need.

An alternative approach to tackling mood disorders

The Anasazi way is unconventional but as it is based on Native American philosophy, at its core, it is centuries old. The approach to healing is comprehensive and individually tailored. Instead of trying to change the young people by the threat of punishment or the incentive of a reward, the program aims to change their hearts. Early discoverers made by Anasazi founders, Larry Olsen and Ezekiel Sanchez, showed that participants made more lasting changes when they felt loved and cared about the consequences upon those they were loved by. The safe, rural environment and outdoor activities are paramount to the therapy provided by this program. By helping the young people and their parents to turn their hearts towards each other, the residential program aims to give them a fresh start. This is achieved by teaching all involved to recognise their own value in the world and the value of everyone around them. By the end of the program the young people will understand the power of choices. By learning the importance of walking forward in life, the young people can improve their mental health, build coping techniques and create a happier and more fulfilled life.