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On The Trail
Mental Health News

Pearland Walk Honors Veterans

JROTC Color guard

Braving the threat of heavy rain. nearly 100 men, women and children came out on November 7 for the 2nd Annual Pearland Veterans Day Walk in Pearland, TX. Officials from the State of Texas, Brazoria County, and the City of Pearland were among those on hand to honor our veterans and raise money for veterans programs. Read more to see who turned out and how much was raised from the event.

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2016 PCT Thru Hikers Can Register Now


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 the popularity of Cheryl Strayer’s “Wild,” more and more people are planning to backpack and thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016. If you are one of these hearty souls…

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Your 2016 Appalachian Trail Thru Hike – Make It Count


So far, more than 120 Appalachian Trail hikers have raised a total of nearly $50,000 for mental health research, programs to overcome the stigma of mental illness and trail conservancy. With Robert Redford and Nick Nolte taking “A Walk in the Woods” on the big screen, there are sure to be more hikers following the white blazes than ever before. Whether going NoBo, Sobo, flip-flopping or creating their own way to complete the 2,185 mile footpath from Georgia to Maine, these thru hikers who register with HIKE for Mental Health have one thing in common: a desire to do some good for others along the way.

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Another Glorious Sunfish Pond Hike!


“I am still basking in the positive energy that came from this hike!” So said one of the hikers days after the 2015 Sunfish Pond HIKE for Mental Heath. More than a dozen hikers joined volunteer hike organizers Pat Horsch and Wendy Summa for last Sunday’s final hike of our 2015 season, and Sunfish Pond in New Jersey was again the setting for a special HIKE for Mental Health experience. On the beautiful sun-filled day, Pat and Wendy welcomed the group and then began the hike from the Kittatinny Visitors Center…

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60 turn out for Lula Lake hike


On a beautiful day in October, 60 people met at Lula Lake Land Trust in north Georgia near Chattanooga, TN, for a HIKE for Mental Health. Volunteer hike organizers Emily Ellis and Cassidy Wolfe led a terrific hike. The trail had a few uphill spots but led to some beautiful bluff views! “The hike ended by a gorgeous 80 ft. waterfall,” says Emily, “where we stopped to take a group picture! It was so great getting to meet everyone and hearing how mental health or hiking had impacted their lives!”

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Sam’s Point Shows The Reason We Hike


“Right before the weekend a work colleague of mine lost a relative to depression/suicide,” write hike organizer Karen Viola. “And the day after the hike, an email came through with the news that one of my own relatives, a young student, was in the hospital. To keep her safe. Because of severe, treatment-resistant mental illness. Needless to say my feelings were all over the place as I browsed through all the glorious, colorful, joy-filled hike photos. But there we all were waving our orange bandanas… and the reason why is as crystal-clear as that day we had at Sam’s point.”

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Great Pictures from 2015 Bear Mountain Hike to Oktoberfest


Thanks to everyone who made the 2015 Bear Mountain Hike to Oktoberfest a fantastic success. Hike organizers Donna Chapman and Martin Hunley did a terrific job as usual. And as usual, they captured a bushel of great photographs on the hike over Bear Mountain, NY, and down to the Bear Mountain Oktoberfest celebration. Check them out!

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Oklahoma and Texas team up on a great hike


More than 60 participants gathered at Eisenhower State Park on the Texas-Oklahoma border on last Saturday for our first north Texas HIKE for Mental Health. Organized by Candice Stone, the hikers raised more than $3,000 for mental health research and trail conservancy! Guess what animal made its first appearance on a HIKE for Mental Health.

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Explore Sunfish Pond with Wendy and Pat


Thanks to volunteer hike organizers Wendy Summa and Pat Horsch, there is one more chance to join a HIKE for Mental Health this year near the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border. And it is a beautiful 9-10 mile fall hike from outside Delaware Water Gap to gorgeous Sunfish Pond on November 8, 2015. The hike features a gradual 1000′ vertical ascent to spectacular views from the ridgeline before reaching the southern-most glacial pond on the Appalachian Trail. Join us!

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Bag 2 Vermont peaks on one hike!


Does it get any better than hiking up the summits of Pico and Killington Peaks in the fall? How about hiking along the oldest long trail in the US? How about visiting the highest shelter on the Long Trail? Join Zach Cavacas on October 3 and you can do all these things in one day.

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Announcing our 2nd Annual Bear Mountain Oktoberfest Hike


Join us for our Second Annual Bear Mountain Oktoberfest Hike with dramatic views of the Hudson River Valley and Bear Mountain Bridge, an amazing climb on hand-hewn granite steps, and brats, sauerkraut, alp-horns, polka music, and more at the end! These are just a few of the attractions of the three-hour Bear Mountain Oktoberfest hike near Highland Falls, NY.

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Lookout Mountain, Here We Come!


Join us as HIKE for Mental Health comes to beautiful Lookout Mountain, GA, for a 2.5 mile hike on October 18, thanks to new volunteer hike organizers Cassidy Wolfe and Emily Ellis. Just minutes from Chattanooga, TN, the hike in the Lulu Lake Land Trust features two waterfalls, a serene chestnut tree preserve, and the views from the bluff of Lookout Mountain. Read more about why Emily and Cassidy chose the Land Trust for this hike.

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Stunning Views on 4th Annual Mt. Washington Hike


Gorgeous weather and stunning views greeted our 4th Annual Summit Mt. Washington hikers on August 22 in New Hampshire. More than 50 hikers of all ages made the 5.2 mile ascent on the Jewell Trail to the summit of the highest peak in the northeastern US. How amazing was this year’s Summit Mt. Washington hike?

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Psych: Vermont has been one of my favorite states

At the MA-VT border sign

Read another trail update from Joe “Psych” O’Donnell: Vermont has been one of my favorite states on the trail so far for a number of reasons. First, the Green Mountains are beautiful–challenging to hike but rewarding to summit and enjoy the views. Second, continuously hiking the AT through VT…

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Prince George Citizen highlights 2016 hiker Leland McKeeman

Leland McKeeman

“The issue of mental health is of personal importance to me, it having affected my life and my family’s life,” said Leland McKeeman, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 19 and has struggled with both extreme fluctuations in mood as well as depression in his younger years. “It’s always been a dream of mine to finish the trail. I figured while pursuing this goal and dream of mine to give back to others.”

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Psych Hikes to New England

JOD 03

Joe “Psych” O’Donnell shares another update from the trail. See why he says that the last 400 miles have been among the most challenging so far on the AT.

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Hike with artist-hiker in the ‘Gunks


Ice caves, rare northern pine barrens, a 187 ft waterfall, and Lake Maratanza are just some of the amazing features awaiting hikers on our October 11 HIKE for Mental Health in Minnewaska State Park Preserve in Cragsmoor, NY. Hiking to beautiful vistas in upstate New York in the fall – how much better can it get! Join us!

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Artist-hiker shares her talents with HIKE for Mental Health


Last October, Karen Viola marked her 50th birthday with a 50 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, raising more than $3,000 for HIKE for Mental Health. A talented artist, she is now offering three beautiful note card designs, with the proceeds to benefit HIKE for Mental Health. The 5″ x 7″ note cards are printed on 100% recycled paper, and shipping is free. Check them out.

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Team California Comes Through Again!


For the second year in a row, Team California has knocked it out of the park, putting on another great hike in Placerita Canyon and raising more than $3,700 over two years! 80% of the funds raised will support programs to alleviate suffering from mental illness, and the remaining 20% will be split between the Placerita Canyon Nature Center and the Community Hiking Club for their work on Dagger Flats. Check out the photo gallery!

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Kentucky hike celebrates life and raises $1,000


The first annual Scott Haders Memorial Hike was a tremendous success! “It was a blast,” said co-organizer Rich Scanlon, “We are already planning for next year as attendees are requesting a date.” The event, which included a hike up to Natural Bridge, a BBQ and overnight camping at Middle Fork Campground, raised more than $1,070 for HIKE for Mental Health, NAMI Northern Kentucky, and the Sheltowee Trace Association.

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No More Night Hiking

Clear summit

Read the latest trail update from AT hiker Joe “Psych” O’Donnell: The theme of this past week has been rain. And just when you think it can’t rain any more or any harder, the Appalachian Trail surprises you with just that. I was foolish enough to go night hiking

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Nancy Kozanecki Named “Community Champion”


HIKE for Mental Health co-founder and board member Nancy Kozanecki was recently honored for her extensive volunteerism in the Pearland, Texas, community. Read on to see why the award citation says that “Pearland is a much better place to live due to the time, effort and charitable heart of Nancy Kozanecki.”

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


“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


“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


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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Exercise Treatment of Sleepiness in Depression Linked to Immune System Chemicals


Researchers have come one step closer to understanding the intricate relationship between sleep and depression. In a recent study involving people who suffer from atypical depression, researchers were able to correlate the effect exercise has on reducing hypersomnia to lowering levels of interleukin (IL-1β), an immune system chemical, and reductions in levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports neurons and aids the growth of new ones. While both these factors are generally linked to improved sleep, this new study suggests that in atypically depressed people, high levels of production of these chemicals may be disturbing sleep more than helping.

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Rethinking How We Label Mental Illness


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


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”


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

feature-gene ethics_520 (1)

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

Nature Walk

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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