General Research Therapies — 17 September 2018

Photo: Helen Osler and friend love to camp out in the Pilbara. (Supplied: Helen Osler) 

Camping is being lauded as way to help you feel better about yourself, get closer to your loved ones and create a sense of reconnection to the world.

In a world where the fear of missing out (FOMO) is contributing to anxiety, camping may have a special place in improving mental health by its ability to cut people off from technology.

Alistair Mitchell is one person who says drawing on his early childhood experiences of camping and getting back to nature helped his long road to recovery from mental illness.

He had been battling mental illnesses for a long time in his life, then his autistic son came along, triggering a new bout of the black dog.

After falling into a drug and alcohol habit to reduce stress he tried to take his own life.

He managed to turn that around as a suicide survivor and is now a mental-health advocate, health and wellness coach specialising in servicing AFL regional football clubs.

In his younger life working hard on the family farm harvests, camping trips to the beach over summer became a lifeline and recovery from the exhaustion.

“The family connection was great and you’re outside doing enjoyable things in the open air,” Mr Mitchell said.

“You’re connecting with family, reading books and it’s just — more time for you.

“The more time we spend for ourselves, the better we are.”

FIFO takes its toll

Gavin Gillett has lost at least half a dozen friends to suicide during his time working in the mining and construction sector.

“You don’t even realise they’re having an issue at the time until they come around one night, they’re being social and friendly and then you realise the next day they were saying goodbye,” Mr Gillett said.

“It’s a big issue, especially in FIFO for our particular industry; to look after mental health.

“It’s something my company takes very seriously, we have a lot of peer supporters.

“If you can get out, get dirty, get the sun on your skin and start relaxing by a fire then there’s no better way.

“I couldn’t be happier and I think a lot of that does have to do with the camping and bush life that you get up here in the Pilbara.”

Photography and camping go hand in hand

Pilbara people are enthusiastic fans of camping and a big advantage is the availability of easily accessible campsites where fires are allowed not too far from the towns of Karratha, Tom Price or Port Hedland.

Every weekend from May through to October local people head outdoors to the nearest creek, beach or riverbed to just chill out with nature and mates.

The ideal weather of blue skies, warm days and cool nights make for easy sleeping under the stars by your favourite waterhole.

Helen Osler loves nothing more than going out bush exploring the gorges in her 4WD during downtime from a busy job in the Pilbara.

She believes it is perfect pastime for good mental health.

“I’m a passionate photographer and I truly believe that getting out there and concentrating on that photography puts me in a certain state of meditation,” said Ms Osler.

Tracy Reis enjoys a glass of wine or beer by the campfire when out bush with her husband. Taking the boat out fishing is a regular mental health release.

“We just pack up the 4WD, forget about work, forget about everything that’s happening and just relax, chill out,” Mrs Reis said.


a white beach with tents

Camping’s digital disruption

Research by Hugh Fitzpatrick for the Caravan Industry Association of Australia, found that 95 per cent of campers believe that camping can make you happier and reduce stress.

“People who are camping regularly said they felt better about themselves, felt closer to their loved ones and felt a sense of reconnection when they went camping,” said Mr Fitzpatrick.

People are being encouraged to switch off from the digital world to achieve greater psychological and emotional health.

“You’re hearing more and more about people who are doing a digital detox or a disconnect to reconnect.”

One camping survey respondent commented “I recently heard it described that the stars are nature’s TV. I love sitting around a campfire at night — it’s very grounding.”


Camping swag in the Pilbara red dirt

This piece by Susan Standen was originally published on ‘ABC News‘, 16 September 2018. 

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