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Thank you, Neil, for giving us A Taste For The Woods

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“I was reminded why my website exists, and what its role should be, last week,” writes Neil Brennen about the Pole Steeple hike he led for HIKE for Mental Health. Please check it out and see how he lives in word and deed his message that “the outdoors is for everyone.”

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Laura to Lead Placerita Canyon Hike Again

Laura to lead hike 2015

After a tremendously fun and successful hike last year, Laura Skorich will again lead a hike in Placerita Canyon near Santa Clarita, CA, again this year. To see amazing pictures of the hike and get more details, click here.

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Psych hikes to Hot Springs

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“I’m absolutely loving it out here. The mountains, the trees and flowers, birds and other wildlife, the people, and the general serenity of being outdoors and keeping moving. I wish you all could be out here to experience this with me, but know that I’m carrying you all in my heart, and your words of encouragement and support help keep me going!”

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Thanks from the Dayton VA Medical Center

We want to pass along this letter of thanks from the Dayton VA Medical Center. The veterans they serve were recipients of some of the books collected from the Pearland, TX, book drive this year. The book drive was an extension of our Pearland Veterans Walk for PTSD Awareness. We shipped out 800 used paperback books to veterans as well as to active duty service men and women and their families.

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Announcing our $50k in ’15 Program

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Last year, we were blessed with a record number of hikes, hikers, hike leaders, and funds to support mental health research and trail preservation. This year, we need just a few more inspired hike leaders to help us get to our $50,000 goal in total fundraising from our day hikes. We call it our $50k in ’15 program because we targeting $50,000 raised from our organized day hikes in 2015.

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Join us at Natural Bridge State Park in Slade, KY on June 6

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Visit Natural Bridge in Slade, KY, a top attraction in the beautiful Red River Gorge region. Take in Balanced Rock and climb 600 stairs to beautiful ridge-line views. These are just a few of the attractions of the three-hour Scott Haders Memorial Hike in Natural Bridge State Park.

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Neil Brennen to lead 2015 Pole Steeple hike

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We are honored that Neil Brennen from “A Taste for the Woods” will return to lead our Pole Steeple hike again this year. Neil is a great advocate for the message that “the outdoors is for everyone.” This gorgeous hike near Gardners, PA, features some of the most dramatic views in Pennsylvania. Click for details and registration.

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2015 Top Hikers

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The hiker who raises the most from a 2015 hike will receive a prize package of brand-new, top-quality gear donated by generous supporters at Leki, Kelty, Vasque, Lightheart Gear, Point6, Princeton Tec and ZPacks. Click to see the leaderboard.

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ZPacks Ultralight Backpack Rounds Out 2015 Hiker Prize Package

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We are proud to announce that ZPacks will contribute a custom-made ultralight Arc Blast Backpack to our 2015 top hiker prize package. The lucky winner will be able to specify the volume, color, torso height and belt length for this great made-to-order backpack. If you want a testament to the quality of ZPacks, look no further than our own Tom Kennedy who traveled in style with his ZPacks backpack this year on his 900+ mile grand adventure on the Florida Trail this winter…

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Princeton Tec and Point6 add to Top Hiker Prize Package

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We are pleased to announce two more contributors to our 2015 top hiker prize package, Point6 and Princeton Tec. Princeton Tec has donated a Remix headlamp. And Point6 contributed two pairs of colorful, comfortable Merino wool socks. We are grateful to both Point6 and Princeton Tec for their support with our 2015 top hiker prize package, a collection of more than $1,100 worth of brand-new, top-quality gear will go to our top fundraising hiker in 2015.

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Appreciation from Veterans

As an extension of our Pearland Veterans Walk for PTSD Awareness, we collected used paperback books in January and February in the Pearland, TX, area to send … More info…

Vasque Laces Up for HIKE for Mental Health

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We are proud to announce that Vasque is the latest to donate to our 2015 top hiker prize package. Vasque is a a leader in performance footwear for trail running, backpacking, and hiking in any season. Vasque has generously donated a gift card good for any pair of boots or shoes that they make. That’s right – the lucky winner will be able to pick out a brand new pair of Vasque boots or shoes in his or her own style and size!

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LightHeart Gear “Covers” HIKE for Mental Health

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HIKE for Mental Health is grateful to Judy Gross from LightHeart Gear for her donation of a Hoodie Pack Cover to our 2015 prize package. Valued at $50, the hoodie pack cover is another of Judy’s remarkable creations that combine her love for hiking and her amazing pattern making and design skills. JWe are honored to include her craftsmanship in our 2015 top hiker prize package consisting of more than $1,100 worth of brand-new, top-quality gear that will go to our top fundraising hiker in 2015.

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PCTA recognizes HIKE for Mental Health

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We wish to thank the Pacific Crest Trail Organization for listing HIKE for Mental Health among its major sponsors, alongside Leki, North Face, Gregory, and other great outdoor companies. As a small, all-volunteer non-profit organization, we are honored to be listed in such great company. With Cheryl Strayed’s movie Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, in theaters now, the load on the PCT is expected to be at record levels. We are grateful to be able to provide the PCTA with resources to help them preserve and manage that breath-taking treasure this year.

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Register for our 4th Annual Summit Mt. Washington

On the summit!

Bask in breath-taking views of the Presidential Range. Ascent through forest, scrub, and tundra to the highest peak in the northeast. Hike above tree-line and into the clouds. Starting early in the morning, we will hike to the summit of Mt. Washington, enjoying spectacular views of the Presidential Range along the way. This hike is extremely strenuous, five miles of nearly constant uphill hiking. And worth every step!

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Leki joins HIKE for Mental Health

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Leki has generously donated a pair of Micro Vario Carbon trekking poles ($199.95 retail value) to our 2015 top hiker prize package. We will present the registered hiker who raises the most from his/her fundraising page by November 30, 2015, with more than $1,000 worth of top-quality hiking gear, including these great trekking pole from Leki.

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$1,000 in Free Gear to our Top Hiker in 2015

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We have a satchel full of exciting new announcements for 2015, and here is the first… We will award our top fundraising hiker of 2015 a collection of brand-new top-name gear worth more than $1,100. We are not talking about used equipment, factory seconds, or last year’s models. Thanks to the generosity of our equipment sponsors, we are talking items such as tents, backpacks, trekking poles and other great gear from top brands in hiking and backpacking. Learn more…

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HIKE for Mental Health collects books for vets in TX

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Building on the success of our Veterans Day Walk for PTSD Awareness in Pearland, TX, HIKE for Mental Health is partnering with Operation Paperback on another local Texas event. Operation Paperback is a non-profit that collects gently used books for American troops overseas as well as for veterans and military families here at home. Operation Paperback volunteers have shipped more than 1.9 million books to locations around the globe. More than 5,000 books have been collected in Pearland and Friendswood since 2012.

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Texas Walk for PTSD Awareness Raises $5,400 for Veterans

VA staff receive donations from HIKE for Mental Health.

HIKE for Mental Health is proud to award more than $5,400 to Texas veterans groups from its 2014 Veterans Day Walk for PTSD Awareness in Pearland, TX. We presented more than $2,400 in workbooks and treatment materials to the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, and we awarded $3,000 to Pearland VFW Post 7109 to increase services.

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And the 2014 Winner Is…

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—A West Michigan man is planning a five-month wilderness trek from Mexico to Canada in an effort to honor his late brother and raise money for those suffering from mental illness.

“In 2012 I lost my little brother Logan in a car accident. Ever since that moment I have been searching for something constructive to pull out of this tragedy.” This year’s top fundraising hiker – and winner of the Paramount Sleep queen mattress set, will hike the PCT in 2015 for a reason that will warm your heart for the holidays.

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Illinois hike raises $1,200

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On October 11, volunteer hike organizer Josh McLaughlin led our first-ever HIKE for Mental Health in Illinois. Along with his Matthiessen State Park hikers and all their supporters, he raised $1,200 for mental health research and trail preservation with his Matthiessen State Park hike.

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Hooray for Sunfish Pond Hikers

Susan signing her books for one lucky hiker.

On a clear autumn day, 17 hikers came from as far away as Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and North Carolina to hike with Susan “jackrabbit” Letcher. As usual, Susan hiked barefoot and paused to read a passage from Southbound on a rest break near the pond. The hike, however, was not a revisiting of the past but a celebration of a glorious fall day, a great HIKE for Mental Health, a time to meet new friends in a gorgeous, natural setting, and a statement that we will overcome the stigma associated with mental illness.

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Colorado Springs Rocks Red Rock Hike

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More than 30 hikers, some as young as 2 years old, came out for the first annual Red Rocks HIKE for Mental Health near Colorado Springs, CO, last weekend. And before the hike was even over, co-organizer Dixie Snyder texted us, “Sign us up for next year! Our people want to do it again! Amazing time! …Next year we all agreed that we’re going to wait till Casey (“Aquaman” Owen) gets back to do the hike again. So October, I’ll make sure to bring hot chocolate…. Casey did a great job! This was a great, fun, easy-going experience that wouldn’t of happen without him & all of your support! Thank you!

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Photos from Bear Mountain Hike to Oktoberfest 2014

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What a fantastic time on this year’s Bear Mountain hike!. It was a great day for hiking, with beautiful panoramic views of the Hudson Valley. Some hikers brought attention to the event by dying their hair orange and punking themselves out on the trail. And at the end of the hike, there was the Oktoberfest celebration, where HIKE for Mental Health led the dance floor, joined by some AT SOBO hikers and others at the celebration. And of course there was Doug in his full Bavarian outfit, complete with lederhosen.

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2015 PCT Thru Hikers Can Register Now

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Rugged. Breathtaking. Grueling. Magical. These are the words many Pacific Crest Trail thru hikers use to describe their experiences of the 2,600+ mile National Scenic Trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada. With Cheryl Strayer’s “Wild” hitting theaters, more and more people are planning to backpack and thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2015. If you are one of these hearty souls…

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HIKE for Mental Health comes to Illinois

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“I am an avid hiker, and I love the trails and scenery at Matthiessen State Park,” says hike organizer Josh McLaughlin. His October 11 hike in the Dells area of Matthiessen State Park makes Illinois the latest state in our Fourteen in ’14 program. Josh is the nephew of HIKE for Mental Health Director of Hiker Registration Diana Pease, and he credits her for his inspiration. This hike includes amazing waterfalls, sandstone canyons, and lush forest. Join us!

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Mental Health News

Rethinking How We Label Mental Illness

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If we waited until a person had a heart attack before addressing heart disease, 1.1 million more people would die each year. Yet that is exactly how we deal with mental illness today, argues Dr. Thomas Insel of the National Institute of Mental Health. He challenges us to rethink how we think and talk about mental illness.

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Groundbreaking Discovery of how Sleep Plays a Role in Mental Illness

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Dr. Kai-Florian Storch and his team of researchers suggest that sleep abnormalities are the result of an imbalance of an ultradian rhythm generator that is based on dopamine, contrary to past hypotheses suggesting that sleep abnormalities are a result of circadian rhythm disruption. This finding is groundbreaking in the field of psychopathology, specifically in regard to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

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“Let It Go”

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Elsa, the snow queen from the extremely popular Disney film Frozen, sings, “Let it go; Let it go; You’ll never see me cry.” In a study funded partially by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, this ‘let it go’ attitude may not be so easy for people struggling with untreated depression.

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Partnership with Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Grows

Dr. Jeffery Borenstein, president of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, with Leo Walker from HIKE for Mental Health.

Over the past three years, we have contributed nearly $75,000 to the Foundation’s research grants programs. In 2014 alone we disbursed $45,000 to this remarkable organization committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness by awarding grants that will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research. Again for 2015, HIKE for Mental Health will dedicate 80% of the money raised through our hikes to alleviating suffering from mental illness, with the largest portion going to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.

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Scientists Link Two Genes with Risk of PTSD

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Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have recently linked two gene variants to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), further explaining why some people develop PTSD after a traumatic event and others do not.

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Laughing Gas Studied as a Secondary Treatment for Depression

Psychiatrists Charles R. Conway, MD, (from left) and Charles F. Zorumski, MD, worked with anesthesiologist Peter Nagele, MD, on a small, pilot study in which nitrous oxide was given to patients with treatment-resistant depression. The team plans further research based on results suggesting that the gas may be a possible treatment for depression.

Principal investigator Dr. Peter Nagele said, “It’s kind of surprising that no one ever thought about using a drug that makes people laugh as a treatment for patients whose main symptom is that they’re so very sad.” Dr. Nagele and his team of researchers have recently found that nitrous oxide offered many patients with treatment-resistant depression relatively immediate and sustained relief from symptoms.

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Children with Autism Have Excess of Synapses in Brain

(Left) Excess synapses in the brain of a child with autism (Right) Properly pruned synapses of a developmentally typical child. Credit: Guomei Tang/Mark S. Sonders/Columbia University Medical Center

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center find that children with autism have a slower pruning process, leading to an excess of synapses in the brain. This discovery explains some characteristics common of the disorder, including oversensitivity to stimuli.

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Group Nature Walks Linked to Improved Mental Health

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It is advice we have all heard before: the more time we spend outdoors, the better we will feel. Now there is scientific evidence for this advice. Researchers found that engaging in group nature walks significantly lowered the severity of depression and reduced stress in participants.

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