Our CEO is famous!
Tim Wills stars in a recent Stuff.co.nz article titled ‘How outdoor adventure is a key tool for tackling our mental health crisis’.
Read the article on the Stuff.co.nz website, or keep reading for the copy-and-paste version below:
How outdoor adventure is a key tool for tackling our mental health crisis
Tim Wills is the chief executive of Adventure Specialties Trust a charity using guided, outdoor adventure for community growth and development. Adventurespecialties.co.nz
If you’re like me, your social media feed will be full of gloomy stories about the cost-of-living crisis, crime, and the occasional surfing fail.
We could do with some good news.
I lead Adventure Specialties, the trust that has for the last 40 years helped Kiwis of all ages escape their day-to-day tribulations by connecting to nature.
It truly is the best job. We have the thrill of taking people kayaking, cycling and hiking in Aotearoa’s most beautiful places. And we see moments of transformation as people overcome fear and anxiety.
The trust is founded on the idea that the combination of outdoor adventure and working closely with other people offers a unique context for personal growth and development.
The feedback from clients is incredible.
Here’s what a recent graduate, Jack (not his real name), told us:
“I came home more open to talking with my mum and my nan. I was more open to telling them how I felt about things that were going on with me. I have never been able to do that before … I haven’t been in a physical altercation since camp.
“I am able to turn down cannabis especially at school because I want to stay at school, work on my future and not be a bum. I have more self-control, I have dreams now.
“Because of camp, I have rethought what I want to be. I did think before camp that I wanted to be in a gang but realise now that, in the long term, it’s not going to be good for my life. I would like to work towards opportunities to become a builder. I never thought I would have any other dreams.”
The good news is that Jack’s story is not a one-off.
In recent years, Adventure Specialties Trust has become a leader in an emerging field called Adventure Therapy – an approach to mental health services that combines clinical therapeutic approaches with outdoor activities. Research is showing that Adventure Therapy is as effective as talk-based therapy.
It’s particularly suited to people who prefer not to sit in an office and talk.
A good example is Restore, a partnership with Ministry of Social Development (MSD). Each group has ten adult participants for whom anxiety, depression, stress/burnout or other mental health challenges are preventing them from working.
The programme aims to restore energy, self-worth and hope on their journey towards wellbeing and an eventual return to work, study, or other community involvement.
The group meets with an outdoor instructor and a mental health professional once a week for eight weeks, and each day involves an outdoor activity (like kayaking, mountain biking, coasteering, tree planting) combined with facilitated discussions.
According to our evaluation, the results show a 25% increase in confidence going into new groups of people and a 23% increase in feeling like they have a sense of purpose.
We apply a similar approach to working with youth and adult mental health clients, ACC sensitive claims clients, Māori mental health, Youth Justice, Care and Protection and other community agencies.
And we offer open programmes to anyone wanting to improve their mood with a great day out!
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by bad news. But, as you head into Easter, where themes of suffering and death are followed by hope and recovery, perhaps you can take encouragement that every day, out there, someone is taking a therapeutic step to recovery through outdoor adventure.
And you can too.
CEO of Adventure Specialties Trust