Douglas County Skyview Farm helps youth with mental health

Sky View Farm is a 55-acre farm that shows love and compassion through animal therapy.

CASTLE ROCK, Colorado – The serene views of the 55-acre Sky View Ranch in northern Douglas County are helping teens cope with their mental health.

The ranch is located off Interstate 25 and Happy Canyon Road. Wendy Ingraham She owns and runs it with her husband. They have chickens, ducks, cats, dogs, goats and 49 horses.

They have opened their lands to schools as a way to be more involved and offer their mental health resources through animal therapy.

Ingraham said she wants to start helping young people in her community with mental health.

“I have a daughter who is now 14,” said Ingraham. “And I kind of [dug] A little more in terms of suicide, mental health, depression, and anxiety, I learned that Douglas County has one of the highest rates of attempted suicide in the country.”

Ingraham and her husband bought the farm in 2017 and named it Sky View because of the wide open views of the farmland and Front Range.

She is also the Founder of Robin’s Nest Charity, a non-profit organization that provides equine-assisted therapy to help treat young adults with depression, anxiety, and/or trauma-related symptoms. She started the foundation after she lost three close friends to depression.

“It was a concept brought about three and a half years ago, four years before three of my friends committed suicide within three months,” Ingraham said. “I thought this would be a really great place to start my journey of helping people in our community with mental health.”

According to Children’s Hospital Colorado, suicide is the leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14 in the state—even higher than accidental deaths. A third of Colorado high school students say they constantly feel sad and hopeless, 17% admitted to having suicidal ideation, and 7% have attempted.

Ingraham shares the ranch with other mental health resources Mustard Seed Ranch and The Aspen Effect – nonprofit charitable organizations that provide equine and animal-assisted therapy and life experience programs to young people. The goal is to make animal therapy for mental health more accessible.

“We embrace other foundations of mental health within our community,” Ingraham said. “It takes more than one organization to get work done. It takes collaboration, and being able to let them do their work is just as important as our work here.”

“It’s just about raising awareness of programs like ours,” said Mallory Nicklas, program manager for Mustard Seed Ranch. “Kind of taking the stigma off the mental health lid that’s out there and just knowing that mental health treatment doesn’t have to look only one way.”

Niklas is a healer on the farm. In traditional talk therapy, she said, some things may be missed or it’s hard for teens to open up, but when they have an honest big animal by their side, it requires them to think for themselves and be honest.

“We may not get these deep answers and break through ideas every single time, but you can start to see their wheels turning and connections starting to form,” Niklas said. “We as humans are only wired to connect in some way whether it is to connect to another person or something else.”

Niklas said she has seen the number of mental health cases rise over the past three years.

“It’s been something we’ve been seeing for a long time and coronavirus, just the isolation and the lack of contact made it all the more obvious,” she said. “I think that’s something we need to recognize and create a comfortable space for us to talk about and find other outlets that might work or reach out to a child.”

The farm helps students like Arapahoe High School’s Evan Spoond. He researched Robin’s Nest as a way to deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder. In May of 2019, Evan survived a STEM high school shooting at Highlands Ranch.

“On May 7th of 2019, a shooter at my school opened fire in the classroom across the hall from my house, shooting and killing a kid who was trying to run and protect everyone.. “There was one guy in my class who got a bullet through the wall,” Spund said. “Right now, I didn’t know what to think, I was pretty much freezing but looking back, it was a really tough experience for me.”

For Evan, Sky View Ranch helps him cope.

“I feel like I have PTSD, it’s always easy to feel,” he said. “I think a lot of thoughts are running through your mind at the same time, and just being there kind of calms those thoughts.”

The feedback from stories like Evan’s is what keeps Ingraham on her mission of being proactive in her community when it comes to mental health.

“It affects our society, it affects our society, it affects our world, and you can’t change everything at once, but you can at least do what you can do,” Ingram said. “It’s a lot of work here and a lot of hardship, and a lot of uncertainty sometimes financially because it’s expensive to keep the animals and the farm, but when you hear stories like that, there’s nothing in the world to stop you.”

For more information about Sky View Farm and Robin’s Nest Charity, click here: https://robinsnestcharity.org/

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