Katie Hart

Breaking Stigmas: Nature’s potential for PTSD, Suicide, and Veterans in the US

FTHub Forest Bathing Guide and a nurse from the USA, Katie Hart has a journey that extends beyond traditional healthcare. She has woven her medical expertise with nature’s therapeutic potential, a fusion of caring for others and recognizing the profound impact of Green on mental well-being. Her work was inspired by the organization Songs 4 Soldiers and by a painful family situation that relocated her to where she wants to be.

« We had a family farm that we would all go to together. There was just a very small house, no tv, nothing like that. We had a creek there, we had a lake. I still remember the beautiful weeping willow trees there. And just being outside, almost sunup to sundown, and just finding fun things to do, just almost like that was just where we lived. Almost out there.

« We don’t have that farm anymore, but I’ve kind of noticed with my kids… we have a creek that we just walk up and down and we’ll look for fossils or different little tiny ferns growing out of the rocks. I always make sure to show them the tiniest little things that are growing or just to notice the beauty around us, because if you take that for granted, you’re just really wasting your life here on this earth. At our house, we have about two acres of woods behind our house. There’s one part that’s kind of a peninsula with a little bit of moss growing on it. It’s just like a little wonderland ».

The Choice and the Call 

« A lot of times, I’ll take a little break and just go out barefoot in the woods just to get grounded and just literally stand and watch nature interact around me. I really want to be part of it where I’m not interfering, but can see even the squirrels running, leaves falling, not disrupting, but just see how things flow with us.

« And I noticed the other day I was probably a week or two since I had been out, and I went to this other little forest that we have, and I noticed I was just smiling ear to ear, I was alone, and I just felt at home. It’s just such a neat feeling.

« I never really wanted to be a nurse growing up. There were so many things I didn’t even know existed at that age. My grandma and my aunt are nurses, so I think I just kind of went into it. And of course, I do like to care for people, but it’s not my true calling. And I felt that more recently than I have before ».

« Almost two years ago this march, my husband’s brother committed suicide. So many things have changed. My way of thinking. There’s just so many things that I wish that he would have tried, because I think your chemistry, your mind can be totally transformed if you just get outside and get in nature, even hands in the dirt. 

« I would think if he had a garden or something where he was just interacting more. That opened my eyes to so many things that people that suffer mental health could benefit from. But then, for myself also, what am I not doing that I should be doing while I’m young and can still do it? I want to help people by at least introducing the idea that there’s other options besides medicine ». 

Veterans 

« I’m part of an organization called Songs 4 Soldiers, and I was on this almost six years now. Within the last two years, I’ve been on the committee that directly works with the veterans. As long as they were a combat veteran and saw some kind of combat interaction, then we will help them as they need. A lot of our veterans have PTSD or some sort of trauma related to their service because they’ve seen combat.

« A lot of times we will pay bills but we help them with almost anything imaginable, there’s still that underlying trauma. And they do have medical care through the VA, but even with my brother in law, I found out that can be limited, or you might get connected with a certain therapist and then they change it, and then you’re like starting all over and it’s just a circle.

« And I know that those people try their best to help, but if there could be a little boost that we could even provide.. Hey, this isn’t mandatory, but if you add this to your daily routine or give yourself a chance, this could really benefit your whole life.

« That’s my main goal, to have a resource for any of our applicants. And it could be even if someone reaches out to us and may not be a combat vet, but they’re saying they’re going through a lot. And then along with family members, because they carry a lot of the burden, too. Surviving family members too. I feel like it’s just so many layers of grieving and guilt that we found out ».

My own saviour 

“Nature saved me a lot of times. Just going in, clearing my head. It’s miraculous how many times going out will clear your head. Even if you cry your eyes out for 30 minutes. In nature, you almost feel rejuvenated when you come out, and it’s like no other. And I feel like the universe almost lines up when you need it.

“I need to share this. With Forest Bathing even sharing a video for them to find ways to incorporate nature in their lives, even with plants at home, give them tools in whatever situation they’re in, just starting a few seeds in their house and watching some herbs grow to feel connected.

« Veterans say a lot of times just getting together with other veterans and talking is such a helpful thing. So I would love for them to do that retreat on a farm where they have Forest Bathing sessions. They need to get stuff off their chest and they feel no one else understands.

« I think that nature is so fascinating beyond the point of just ourselves. Just seeing how nature connects with anything, like the trees underground, connecting, feeding each other. And it just gives you hope that you can’t always find within yourself. Just seeing the new life, the new growth, gives a hope that you don’t always have when you’re going through trauma.

« A lot of times it’s very easy to focus on the negative when you’re in a dark place in your mind. And nature is one place that I can find will turn my mood around without me doing very much of anything ».

 

Ph: Courtesy  Katie Hart

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