Mental health programs for Wildland Firefighters
Why do Wildland Firefighters need support?
Wildland Firefighters experience rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, addiction, alcoholism, and PTSD at rates up to 10x higher than the average population. This quiet epidemic of poor mental health has been largely unaddressed in the Wildland firefighter community.
Many Wildland Firefighters work tirelessly to protect our forests, homes and communities, and their demanding work can sometimes have negative impacts on physical, mental and emotional health. These men and women work sixteen-hour days for fourteen days straight with extremely inadequate pay and have only two days to rest and recover before going back out on another assignment.
Prolonged periods of arduous labor in smokey, dangerous environments, inadequate rest and nutrition, constant vigilance, prolonged stress and cumulative fatigue can all wreak havoc on the body’s natural equilibrium. Periodic intense, life-threatening situations, near misses or tragic losses can result in trauma, grief and sometimes PTSD, and without the tools or the time to process these experiences some firefighters may turn to unhealthy coping strategies.
As wildfires increase across the globe, now more than ever there is a need to support our firefighters on the front lines.
Nourishing Wholesome Activity
How does this program support Wildland Firefighters?
We offer mental health programs for Wildland Firefighters in the lush rainforest of Costa Rica.
Our programs are facilitated by Wildland Firefighter and other experts of spiritual practices. Our facilitators help firefighter's to experience rejuvenation through nervous system recovery, mental and emotional health support, and meaningful connection to nature. In exchange, firefighters use their forestry skills to help us protect 7,500 acres of Eco Era's pristine rainforest.
Our program integrates health and wellness for firefighters while providing invaluable restoration work to the rainforest.
“The key to enlightenment is that everything is ‘chopping wood and carrying water’ and that if one does everything mindfully then it is all the same.” - Zen Proverb
Through mindfulness practice, we teach firefighters to connect to the physical work they do through the deeper levels of their heart and psyche. This embodied way of practice helps create a sense of lasting peace and fulfillment.
Our programs offers space in a peaceful rainforest retreat setting for firefighters to connect to one another. One of the healthiest parts of firefighting is the connection of crew members. This program embraces this connection while removing the high stress and high stakes from the situation. Instead this bond between firefighters is experienced in a setting of peaceful restoration and support.
Mediation is practiced in this program as a means to establish a sense of inner peace and calm. The practice of sitting still and focused helps slow down thoughts and let them pass as they come. A daily practice of meditation creates a foundation for the nervous system to begin to relax and let go of stress responses. A greater sense of well-being naturally arises accompanied by feelings of compassion for others and an ability to leave unhealthy coping mechanism behind.
The ritual practice of Temezcal, or sweat lodge, is an ancient method of releasing stagnant stress, fear, anger, and other negative emotions. Oftentimes people experience this ritual as a complete reset or rebirth.
Temezcal is a way to utilize the power of fire in a way that is transformational to the nervous system and spirit. It was traditionally used for warriors to heal and revitalize their spirits.
CONNECTION TO NATURE
This program takes place in a deep pocket of nature. Every activity is itegrated into a relationship with the natural world. We practice like this to create inner balance with nature that teaches us to receive support from this earth, and live in harmony with the seasons, rhythms, waters and forests, animals and plant life of our planet. Our bodies have the inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health - this process is aided by being in nature.
NERVOUS SYSTEM RECOVERY
Rest is vital for better mental health, increased concentration, a healthier immune system, reduced stress, and improved mood. The location of our space is deeply supportive to rest and rejuvenation. The sound of the forest, the river, and the peaceful, safe energy cultivated in this space allows people to fully let go, drop their guard and experience a true state of relaxation, unaccompanied by feelings of restlessness or boredom.