In 2017, 6 strangers became a family as they hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. They call themselves J-Crew. In May of 2019 the crew will be reuiniting to Hike for Mental Health. We invite you to join with us in raising $600.00 for Hike for Mental Health, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission to alleviate the suffering of those afflicted by mental illness, eliminate the associated stigma, and to foster responsible use of wilderness trails.
Each of the six has a unique motivation for hiking and we'd love for you to meet our team: (pictured above left to right: Blue Ray, Swagger, Bottles, Wildflower, Half-Pint, and Human)
There are two things critical to my mental health: socializing with others and spending time outdoors. When I neglect these, my whole being suffers. I Hike for Mental Health because it makes me feel better and I want others to have that too.
I’m hiking for mental health because people’s lives, including mine, are on the line. Despite being driven and engaged in the community, I struggle on a regular basis with suicidal thoughts and anxiety that make it difficult to leave the house. For years I muscled through it alone – mostly ashamed that I couldn’t just be okay. I had an opportunity to hike 1400 miles of the Appalachian Trail in 2017 and for the first time I could remember, I had a series of months strung together where I felt present in my body and genuinely at peace. I met people along the way who invited me in like family and it was life altering. I came home thinking I had ‘beaten it’ but the peace didn’t last. Over the last year I've been learning that I don’t have to be alone in this. I reached out and got some help and though there is no magic fix, I’m grateful for the progress that’s been made. I hike for mental health because I want people struggling alone to have access to support. I hike for mental health because stigma keeps people locked away from seeking treatment and there doesn't need to be shame. I hike for mental health because trails can save lives and I want to experience this beautiful earth and life for as long as I can.
Mental illness has always been a very present theme in my life and family. We fight it personally, we study and research it, and we help others on their journey. I feel so fortunate to say that I’m connected with this community because I struggle to always be a consistent person mentally; dealing with extreme highs followed by the inevitable low where I’m left cleaning up a mess. I’ve spent a great deal of energy over the years hiding it, but hiking never fails to put things into perspective. The trail refuses to let me get too low because it’s not an option to stay in my tent and run out of food. The trail also limits my highs by fostering accomplishments instead of shame. More importantly, hiking has a lasting impact. It can help us even after we’ve returned home. Whenever I feel like I’m losing my mental balance, I know it’s time to hit the trail again. That's why I hike, because everyone should have the opportunity to feel empowered when managing their own mental health.
I have been affected by mental illness my entire life. I, myself battle Post traumatic stress disorder and Bipolar disorder, which often brings Anxiety along with it. I experience episodes of extreme highs and extreme lows and am overwhelmed more often than not.
In the past 5 years, I've lost two of my closest friends to suicide; my brother murdered our Mother; and my Sister died, all stemmed from untreated or unmanaged mental illness(es). When asked, "how do you survive something like this," my answer is hiking.
On May 15, 2019, my Tramily (Trail Family), J-Crew will reunite on my birthday and anniversary of the start and completion of my AT Thru Hike. We will Hike for Mental Health and we will do it together.
I aim to help educate those who know so little about mental illness, those who judge, and those who suffer from an illness or illnesses that often lead to a feeling of complete isolation.
Please take the time to learn more, to help someone in need and to change the stigma surrounding mental health. Thank you!
Thanks to my J-Crew, and the crew at Hike for Mental Health for all you do! Thanks AT!
Having been diagnosed with depression at a young age and a long family history of alcoholism and physical abuse my exposure to some of the dated stigmas of mental illness is significant. After 25 years of military service, 7 combat deployments, multiple traumatic brain injuries, additional depression diagnoses, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder I have come to appreciate the wounds that have no physical appearance with which people struggle every day, moment to moment. I have learned that we cannot judge another's experience, but only hope to understand it and have real, empathetic conversations about them and that human change makes social change possible. I now know that our psychological arc can never bring us back to our original childhood innocence, but it can bring us to a better, higher plain through connection and compassion.
I could not be more encouraged by the evolution of modern mental health. The stigmas associated, ignorance, and “under their breath in the shadows” references have given way to science, compassion, empathy, and openness. “Crazy” and “damaged” are no longer the terms favored by the common vernacular and understanding trauma and how its effects differ from individual to individual could quickly be deemed the most significant discovery in the human psyche of the last century.
Hiking helps to see the natural world all around that embraces without judgment or expectation. The trail doesn't care where you are from, who you love, or the color of your skin. It could care less that you have a prosthetic leg. It doesn't care that you suffer from social awkwardness or crippling depression. When it rains on the trail, we all get wet, when it is cold we all shiver, and when the stars fill the sky we all feel small. The trail just asks that we show up, respect it and its friends and that we tell its story.
Each of us has a role to play and there is no role too small - if you feel moved by our stories and the relief that hiking can give people suffering from mental health symptoms, please consider clicking the donation button and help us reach our goal of raising $600.00.
Thank you for your support!