Heroes on the Water powers up peer support through kayak fishing, the outdoors, and true camaraderie.

Peer support is described as a system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and mutual agreement of what is helpful. Rather than using psychiatric models or diagnostic criteria, peer support uses the understanding of another’s situation through shared experiences. Those experiences are one of the reasons that Heroes on the Water’s programs are so powerful.

Amping up peer support using the rehabilitative aspects of the outdoors makes it easier for people to bond. Removing the distractions of everyday life, such as electronics, constant access to technology, the busy hustle and bustle of the daily grind, ensures that our program participants can relax and reconnect.

Peer Support is Powerful

If you think about your life challenges, where do you turn first? Is it some stranger who asks a bunch of questions while sitting on a sofa? Or is it someone who can relate to your circumstance? Often, we find that in our friend group. But what if your current friend group is unable to relate to your situation? That is where peer support from people who have “been there, done that” makes a difference.

Peer support is not a new concept, but has grown in popularity recently, and for good reason. Research has proven that peer support, and peer support utilizing trained specialists, make a positive impact on individuals.  It empowers people to make more positive decisions and improve their wellness journey.

One of the situations that negatively impacts our veterans, law enforcement and first responders is loneliness and isolation. For veterans, reintegration is difficult and often takes longer than loved ones understand. For our law enforcement community, the nature of their daily jobs puts them in a situation where they must be careful about interaction with just anyone. It is difficult to spend time in places where you are on high alert due to training, such as shopping malls, or interact publicly where you could be criticized for performing your sworn duties.

Our participants tell us that the peer support element of our programs truly helps them to move forward. As one participant said, “You can tell your story, without having to tell your story, when you are out on the water.”

Being in a group that relates to your situation provides a sense of belonging, and an understanding that you are free to talk, or not talk. It’s about whatever makes you most comfortable.

Adding the Outdoors through Kayak Fishing

We know that research has proven that exposure to nature provides many benefits to mental health, including improved memory, relief of stress and anxiety, and better sleep habits. HOW’s kayak fishing program allows for a more relaxed environment where participants have a focus, an activity, that brings them together. The kayak fishing program is adaptive and safe, even for those who have never done it before.

Utilizing outdoor recreational therapy with peer support ensures our participants receive multiple benefits. Coupled with the fact that our program is recurring, meaning participants can continue to come back, supports a long-term wellness journey, and improves the health habits of our community.

After more than 15 years of service, Heroes on the Water has proven the benefits of kayak fishing and the outdoors supported by peer support. If you know someone who could benefit from our programs, visit our website.

If you wish to support our veterans, law enforcement, first responders and their families in receiving a proven peer support experience, join the Honor Circle. Give the greatest impact to serve our heroes.

Mental Health Empowerment Project – Defining Peer Support
Mental Health America – Peer Support: Research and Reports
National Library of Medicine – Bringing Outdoor Therapies Into Mainstream Mental Health

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