Megan Hartwick is a lover of nature and passionate mental health advocate. It only made sense for her to combine all of her passions for her newest project Megan's Hike 4 Mental Health. WYL caught up with Megan to chat about her initiative
WYL: Tell us a bit about you
MH: I’m a 21 year old Concurrent Education Student studying Psychology in my fourth year at Queen’s University. In the fall I’ll be going to Teacher’s College at Queen’s, specializing in Outdoor and Experiential Education I am originally from a small town in Southern Ontario called Fisherville which a population of about 250 people. I grew up camping with my family, which quickly sparked my love for the outdoors. When I’m not in class, I can usually be found outside. My current job is with Youth Leadership Camps Canada (YLCC), where I work as Arts and Craft Specialist, or as the campers call me, Craft Queen. I also work as a volunteer staff member of Camp Outlook, which is the cause for which I am completing my first section hike in May of 2016. I love to snowshoe, downhill ski, hike, and play just about any outdoor sport, especially in winter. I’m always up for a sunrise paddle and I’m happiest sitting next to a campfire with a guitar.
WYL: What’s your connection to mental illness?
MH: I have struggled with my mental health since my early teens, but having grown up in a small town where mental health was a taboo topic, I was not diagnosed until my second year at Queen’s. I have suffered from depression and generalized anxiety disorder, but am happy to say I am recovering well. After becoming as open as I now am about mental health and my experiences with mental illness, I have realized that many more people than we often think are affected by poor mental health. And even if you aren't affected--you still HAVE mental health! I have made it my mission to do all that I can to benefit people with mental illness, especially youth.
WYL: Why is raising awareness about mental health important to you?
MH: My hope is that our world will one day be a world where mental health is valued and talked about in the same way as physical health. If someone had diabetes, cancer, or even just a broken leg, it’s important than friends and family know how to help them—and I think the situation should be no different if that same person instead had depression, schizophrenia, or any other mental illness.
WYL: Do you have any advice for someone who might be struggling?
MH: I guess my advice would be to ask for help, and to not be discouraged if the help you first seek is not the support you need. It took me four different counselors and three different types of medications before I found what worked best to help me. There is not a one-size fits all way to best take care of our mental health, so keep trying until you find what works best for you!
WYL: Tell us about your project
MH: My dream is to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in sections over the next 7 or 8 years, all in order to raise money, resources, and awareness for youth with mental illness. This year I will hike 300 miles from trail’s Southern terminus, Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the 300 miles mark, which is hilariously enough called Big Butt Mountain. Next spring, I plan to pick up where I left off and hike another couple hundred miles. I am planning on choosing a different charity to benefit each year, with my ultimate goal being to one day start my own charity.
WYL: What inspired you to hike for mental health awareness?
MH: The two things I am most passionate about are mental health and the outdoors. My two goals in life have been to hike the Appalachian Trail and to create my own mental health initative. So one day, I just thought, “Why not combine the two?” And that’s how Megan’s Hike 4 Mental Health was born.
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Learn more about Megan's Hike 4 Mental Health