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Stories from the Field: Mental Health and the Outdoors

Jul 20, 2021

Ray Burke is the founder of Active Connections in Ireland. Ray shares his story of growing up in Dublin and finding solace in the woods from the challenges of the city. He would venture to the US to work at summer camps and Outward Bound in Oregon. He learned about wilderness therapy at Catherine Freer Wilderness and returned to Ireland for more education so he could bring adventure therapy home. Ray tells the story of starting Active Connections over a decade ago to help transform lives through adventure.

Rays Bio from the Active Connections website:

Hi, I'm Ray (founder and CEO of Active Connections)I set up active connections when I saw that lots of young people would benefit from therapeutic work but could not get on board with clinical-based supports on offer. I had previously work in the USA in wilderness and adventure therapy services and wanted to see if it could work in Ireland. I found out YES IT DOES.

I'm an outdoor nut and love to spend time in nature, whether that's rock climbing or just resting in a hammock.

One of my fondest memories was on a 7-day rafting trip, I had recently given out to one of the young people on the trip for messing around when he should have been helping someone out of the water. Moments later I was hit in the back of the head with what I thought was a stone. I turned to and looked at the kid, (about to loose my cool) when all of the sudden the skies open up with gold ball-sized hail stone. We rafted up flipped one of the rafts hid under and waited it out. For the remainder of that day we experienced the strangest weather I have ever seen which finished with us hunkered down on the side of the river surrounded by a massive thunder storm with absolutely no way off the river. Before that day, the group struggled after that day the group radiated confidence, togetherness and resilience. I'm still in contact with some of those young people, they still thanks me and Mark V for getting them through it. Myself and Mark V have and always will say all we did was not panic (on the outside), we all got one another through that 24-36 hours.