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Stories from the Field: Mental Health and the Outdoors

Jul 7, 2020

Sarah Stusek of Stusek Studios has worked in the film and television industry since childhood. When she was 17 years old she was brought to a wilderness therapy program in Montana called Three Rivers. The transporter told her, "You should write a book about this" and now, 13 years later, she has finished the book and it will soon be a motion picture. Sarah shares her challenging journey into the wilderness and how it changed her life. She shares her thoughts about the field, her book, and the film.

Bio from Stusek Studios Website: Has been in the film and television industry since 1995, working on Emmy award-winning projects like HBO's VEEP and NETFLIX's HOUSE OF CARDS. 

Bio from Three Rivers Section of Stusek Studios:

Wilderness-based therapy has helped so many, how many more can we reach through film?

Growing up today in this chaotic society is tough. Taking a break from the noise that surrounds us would be beneficial to anyone. No noise, cell phones, internet or connection to society.

I am Sarah Stusek, the filmmaker behind Three Rivers. Producer Wendy Geary and I met while working on the hit EMMY award winning HBO's VEEP seven years ago and have worked toward making this film together ever since. More about us in a minute, let's get back to THREE RIVERS!

When I was seventeen-years-old I attended a wilderness program that completely changed my outlook on life -- I lived in the backcountry of Montana in the middle of winter for three months. I was in a co-ed group of other teenagers labeled "troubled or at-risk youth" that had to work both together as well as independently to literally survive the program-in-the-woods.

I learned not only lessons about nature and survival skills, but the importance of communication and cooperation. However, by far the most important lessons I learned were about myself. These were not always easy lessons to learn, but I kept at it. After I learned to confront my feelings I began to understand them.

I learned what my strengths were and how to rely on myself. I learned where I had weaknesses and what I needed to do to work on them. I learned about teamwork and that I can rely and trust other people. I learned to let go of little things and live more. I learned that the most important relationship in my life is the one I have with myself. Although it was one of the most difficult things I have accomplished, my experience was an unforgettable one, and one that I know I will continue to lean on every day of my life and I want the world to be able to have this experience as well.

The picturesque backdrop of Montana is almost a character in itself. With the beautiful mountains and the frozen snow, the nature leads the story.

I went to wilderness therapy in 2007 and its taken me 12 years to get to a place where I could separate myself from this story. So this is a story of Stella. A teenager of today, way more famous and cooler than I will ever be. We hope you join us on this journey.