What does it really mean to be healthy and well? The PRPS Health and Wellness Committee is continuously looking at this definition, seeing how its changing, and identifying how we can be problem solvers, happiness givers, identity creators and community builders. During the pandemic, its become quite clear that our park’s play a major role in maintaining one’s mental health.
As many of you know, I’m a military veteran. I can probably count on thirty fingers (I have extras) the number of veteran friends I have that struggle with PTSD. Parks are there for them. During the pandemic, with everything shut down, our parks and forests were where these folks found comfort and connection. Walking trails, fishing, teaching their children to hunt. Even though the pandemic has caused a nationwide pause, as individuals and families we psychologically need to feel we are moving forward. Parks helped them move forward.
When I was three years old, my father committed suicide, which understandably became a difficult thing for me and my family to deal with. I can remember many days as a kid being angry, sad, defeated, impulsive. Every single time I felt that way, I would walk out my front door, grab a basketball and go shoot. Sometimes with a bunch of friends and sometimes just me at the foul line. For hours. Parks helped me move forward.
Today, with so much uncertainty regarding the economic, political and social fabric that binds us together, our mental health is more important than ever. The CDC reported in August that 40.9% of survey respondents said the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health, to include anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. This figure is alarmingly up 3-4 times over normal rates.
As a profession, we are always trying to make the argument that we are essential, and the opportunity to cement our story is at our doorstep. As illustrated by record attendance across the state, our residents see the essential value in what we do, parks help everyone move forward.
The Health and Wellness Committee is actively looking to increase mental health and wellness programming and initiatives, and welcomes your ideas! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas, stories and suggestions!