Mental Health Week Ashlee Strange

Mental Health Week: The Mountains are my Medicine

Mental Health Week 2023

20 September 2023

NZDA supports Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 which takes place on the 18th-24th of September.

Ashlee Strange (Thames Valley Branch) has publicly shared her mental health journey and is a keen advocate for other hunters struggling with mental health. In this blog, Ashlee shares five ways that hunting can benefit your physical and mental well-being.

Photo: Callum Sheridan and Ashlee Strange on a NZDA promotional hunt, 2021.

The Mountains are my Medicine.

Words By: Ashlee Strange

I think people are less inclined to recognise how much the realities of everyday life cause us stress. In my experience, people seem to think counselling, prescribed medications, or simply talking about how they’re feeling are signs of weakness.

Many will recommend, and prescribe even, the great outdoors as a treatment for mental health. While it doesn’t cure, it sure does help. Well, in my case it helps a lot. I have a restless heart and a mind that never quits, but they get quiet when I’m outdoors enjoying what nature offers. 

One of the most understated benefits of hunting is improvements to your mental health. The benefits of hunting are wide ranging and highly beneficial. We all know that spending time in the outdoors, connecting with nature and engaging in physical activity have positive effects on our mental wellbeing, so it’s no surprise that hunting and its related activities bring psychological benefits to those who choose to hunt.

A few ways that hunting can benefit your physical and mental well-being:

  1. Exercise: Hunting requires physical activity, such as walking, climbing, and stalking prey. This can help to improve cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles, and increase endurance.
  2. Stress relief: Spending time in nature and participating in an enjoyable and challenging activity can help to reduce stress and improve mental health.
  3. Improved sleep: The physical activity and stress-reducing effects of hunting can help to improve sleep quality.
  4. Improved mental clarity: The focus and concentration required during a hunt can improve mental clarity and cognitive function.
  5. Sense of accomplishment: Successfully hunting and harvesting an animal can provide a sense of accomplishment and boost self-esteem.

Advocates of hunting note that the close connection to nature helps increase mindfulness, a state during which we become more aware of ourselves and our environment. Studies suggest that this increased awareness can be highly beneficial for managing anxiety and depression.

There is no doubt that leaning into nature’s wildness through hunting can bring greater balance between life’s highs and lows while promoting enjoyment of the outdoors overall.

I am thankful to be an outdoorswoman. Getting outside and recharging is important, I feel at peace, reset and im a better person and mother for it. We all need that connection to wild places. It’s why we do what we do.

Having something that elicits so much passion is the constant light at the end of the tunnel, the helping hand always within reach. While it’s hunting and being outside that does it for me, it isn’t for everyone. No one can respect that more than me. Sometimes it takes decades to find what works for you. 

Just keep trying and don’t be afraid of failure. Eventually, you’ll find a path that feels right. And I’ll be here to cheer you on. And if it is the path outside, I’ll see you out there.

Support Mental Health Week and The Message

"As an avid hunter and knowing how important raising awareness around mental health and ending the stigma that its weak to speak, i have collaborated with @unjustified__risk to bring you all an epic design.

Battling with our own personal mental health disorders and knowing how important hunting is for our wellbeing and mental health, the idea came about to tie both hunting and mental health together to make this awesome design."


$10 from every purchase will be donated to our choice of charity - I AM HOPE.

"Hunters we are often stereotyped to be these strong, rugged and brave men and women, which can make speaking up and asking for help very difficult but also very necessary. 

We have released this design and a video explaining my own struggles. It has been well received, with people telling me of their own struggles or given them the courage to speak up and ask for help.

I know for myself and many other hunters we use the outdoors and hunting as a way of dealing with our mental health struggles or day to day stressful lives - it is where we can relax, recharge and reset."

Click the image above to purchase. $10 from every sale will be donated to "I AM HOPE"


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