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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We are a team of high school students at One Stone School in Boise, Idaho. We are currently in the middle of a semester long project on mental health in the outdoor guiding industry. We have done some interviews and research on the mental health of river guides. We are interested on hearing stories from you-what has been your experience with guiding and mental health? Have you ever reached out to a mental health resource? What was your experience?

Thank you!
 

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I would suggest creating some kind of poll or document for Buzz members to fill out, or at least encourage folks to reach out to you via private message. Unfortunately there is still a stigma with mental health issues and I have a feeling that many will hesitate to post that kind of information publicly.
 

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As high school students, hopefully you haven't yet encountered in yourself or your peers the widespread use of alcohol and other recreational substances used as a form of self-medication for depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, but if you do put together any kind of survey or poll that might be a worthwhile avenue of exploration. I can tell you from personal experience, valid survey research of raft guides is tough to do: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17078311
Good luck with the project.

And, also, since this is where I too thought this thread was going based on the title - what's the difference between a raft guide and a savings bond? The savings bond will eventually mature and make money.
 

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Anyone who would want to float down rivers, cook steaks for dinner over a camp fire, drink a cold beer at the end of a day watching the river flow by and sleep under the stars listening to the river while being paid to do so is obviously crazy IMHO.

I hope you keep getting some serious answers unlike mine.
PS: I know a guy who has guided for 20 years and he is a happy man.
 

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As one passenger told us, river guides may be tough but we sure are stupid. Than one passenger out of 200 getting off of my airplane that I piloted into Jamaica , asked me if I was her river guide awhile back on a Yampa river trip and I said yes I was, but tonight I'm not setting up your tent. Small world.
 

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Yeah, guides get paid peanuts and guests pay thousands (not that company owners get rich--gear, insurance, vehicles, etc are all expensive). Guides work sunup to sundown and beyond making sure the guests are safe, happy, fed, dry, and entertained. They have to be "on" all the time.

I go to the river to get away and unplug. Where do they go? I doubt they'd want to relax in my office!



Unfortunately there is still a stigma with mental health issues.
My completely non-scientific opinion is that this is the biggest issue with mental health care.


It's really not a joke, it is serious, and if someone ever trusts one of us with the knowledge that they're struggling, we need to be empathetic and respectful of that knowledge.




ChristianR.OneStone, a tip of my hat to you and your classmates for caring to look at this issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I would suggest creating some kind of poll or document for Buzz members to fill out, or at least encourage folks to reach out to you via private message. Unfortunately there is still a stigma with mental health issues and I have a feeling that many will hesitate to post that kind of information publicly.
Thank you for suggesting the poll/survey idea, we are working on that at the moment.

Stay Stoked!
 

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I once heard a guide on the Gauley tell his crew during a paddle talk " I dont know you well enough to hate you. When I scream at you it's because I'm terrified." Truth.
 

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Seasonal depression is definitely a big issue for river guides. Guides spend their working seasons living an amazingly high quality of life. Smiles are easy to come by, and money is somewhat useless when working every day. All that changes at the end of the season. Days grow short and the reality of the real world sets in. Having an off season job that a guide can look forward to is really important. Having a supportive community/family is also extremely helpful. For most guides, they will eventually look to a different profession that gives them more stability and more options financially. For those few who dedicate themselves to guiding as a lifelong career, they either find a balance or they do not. Mental health is an incredibly HUGE issue in our society, as is substance abuse. I'm glad that high school aged people are thinking about it and talking about it. I'm hopeful that the stigma can be dealt with, as ignoring mental wellness is equally (if not more) dangerous than ignoring physical health problems. Humans are emotional critters. Everyone struggles with life's challenges. We are all in this together so talking about the difficulties helps us put things in perspective.
 

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Couple of things. I think many raft guides are fortunate that they cant afford treatment and self medicate with pot. Anti depressants and benzos are getting a reputation for doing more harm than good.

The real test for mental health comes when guides work those ski jobs in the winter. High altitude is linked with increase rate of suicide.
 

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Guides and mental health

I might have some insight into this question; having spent many years as a guide and partner in a raft company, and also having worked in the mental health field in both wilderness therapy programs and residential urban facilities. I would generalize that most guides are fairly healthy in the mental and emotional department; granted they may use cannabis and drink beer around the campfire in guide camp, after the clients have been sent off to do whatever they do after a day on the river, usually involving the purchasing of sporty stuff. And while I've seen many folks with serious substance abuse issues (been related to a bunch of them), very few of them were guides... and I don't think I've ever known a guide with cocaine, meth, or opiate issues. However these are different times re. the opiate problem, my point being they tend to shy away from the obvious social traps like hard drug addiction. Paradoxically, and not surprisingly, adrenaline is another story and most are junkies to the point of distraction. Running the same stretch of river day after day gets rather boring at times, so look for some unwise risky behavior starting up about early July when water levels are down, they have some money in their pockets, and are starting to feel pretty cocky about their "guidiness" ... so to speak. If you have any specific questions please don't hesitate to ask. I would note finally that raft company owners and guides are entirely different animals and most owners are NOT healthy individuals, having been overcome by the dark cynicism that is the result of attempting to ride herd on a bunch of raft guides.
 

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River Guides Mental Health

Here's a link to a great article by Timothy Tate (part 1 of 3)


https://mountainjournal.org/when-peter-pan-reaches-middle-age


It really strikes right at the root of mental illness seen all through mountain communities. Having been a Professional River Guide for 20+ years and an outfitter for 16, I lived right in the throes of this "Peter Pan" concept that Tate explores. Seasonal work, living below poverty level and the excesses of the "lifestyle" can definitely create a place where mental health issues can grow to the point of tragic outcomes. The joys of working outside in some of the most incredible places on earth can easily be overshadowed by just trying to exist when back in the "real world". It's pretty easy to be "living the dream" as a 25y/o, running boatloads of guests down waterways having the responsibilities as a boats "Captain", sleeping under the stars etc. but suddenly you find yourself at 40 with nothing. This is where I think the real turning point happens and the inevitability of age creates a very dark place for some man and women in our industry. I saw that you already got the Whale Foundation link which is a HUGE resource for GC guides and you may want to ask Nanatahala Outdoor Center (NOC) or OARS if they have any resources or info for the guides they employ. Good Luck and it would be great if you would post a link to your findings on here when complete.
 

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...It's pretty easy to be "living the dream" as a 25y/o, running boatloads of guests down waterways having the responsibilities as a boats "Captain", sleeping under the stars etc. but suddenly you find yourself at 40 with nothing. This is where I think the real turning point happens and the inevitability of age creates a very dark place for some man and women in our industry.
I think another contributor is finding oneself in this situation after having settled in, and become a part of the community, in a place where you're solidly priced out of any kind of home ownership, even if you were working a regular professional job there.

-AH
 
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We are a team of high school students at One Stone School in Boise, Idaho. We are currently in the middle of a semester long project on mental health in the outdoor guiding industry. We have done some interviews and research on the mental health of river guides. We are interested on hearing stories from you-what has been your experience with guiding and mental health? Have you ever reached out to a mental health resource? What was your experience?

Thank you!
There is a lot of mental health disorders in adventure sports and the athletes/workers that are in the field. Depression, anxiety, ADHD, personality disorders, and substance abuse runs rampant in these fields. As a practicing doctor who has spent a lot of time in the whitewater industry, I witnessed it on a frequent basis but didn't realize it until I later in my career. A lot of these guys cycle through time of joy mixed with significant depression, suggestive of undiagnosed or undertreated bipolar as well.
 
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