Woodworker Austin Hager pictured in his woodshop. Austin discusses the benefits of woodworking, DIY and creating on mental health

Finding Mental Health in the Workshop with Austin Hager

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and Forest 2 Home is taking steps to better support our woodworking community and their mental health. We recognize how the challenges of this last year have increased the already dire mental health crisis. Forest 2 Home, along with MTV and 700+ other brands, non-profits and cultural leaders, will be taking part in the first ever Mental Health Action Day, held on May 20th.

The following was written by Austin Hager, this is his story:

It may come as a surprise to you, but medical school can be stressful. Some compare learning medicine to learning a new language! When I found myself in my first year of medical school, this was definitely the case. I was young, fresh out of college, and stressed as ever. When it came to my third year of medical school, I experienced the many emotions that come with moving to a new city, working in a hospital for the first time, all while being isolated from my friends and family. It does not take a licensed healthcare professional to understand how a situation like that can be difficult for a person. That’s when I began woodworking.

Initially, I simply thought of woodworking as a hobby; a new skill to dive into and explore. I didn’t anticipate that it would impact my mental health as much as it did. Woodworking for me began as an exercise to create furniture that was going to last without costing an arm and a leg. I crafted a few bedside tables for myself, then that summer I created a few cutting boards for the first time along with a coffee bar for my significant other. As the days went on, I found myself getting back from stressful and difficult days in the hospital and heading straight into my workshop (at that time a single car garage attached to my apartment), going to tackle whatever project I was pursuing at that time.

Woodworking has become a reprieve from medicine for me. It allows me to relax, enjoy a simple or complex process, and take an unrefined material to create something which, in itself, is inherently satisfying. It allows me to explore my creative mind and express myself. Now 2 years later, with multiple projects under my belt and always striving to learn more, I continue to use woodworking to find enjoyment and satisfaction outside of the hospital. Now more than ever, as a first year resident, having woodworking as an outlet has made all the difference.

For those of you considering pursuing woodworking as a hobby, go for it! Just make sure to focus on safety first, like knowing how to properly use a table saw or whatever tool you purchase. For those of you looking for help with mental health, please talk with your doctor or someone you trust. Below are some links to national resources, but I encourage you to look locally and speak with a healthcare professional!

To everyone, I hope you are staying safe and healthy, and enjoy your next project!

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on mental health. Below are links to many medical resources and hotlines if you or a loved one is suffering from mental health difficulties, and I encourage you to look through these!

Resources:

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. 
  1. National Suicide Prevention Line: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En español 1-888-628-9454
  1. Crisis Text Line - Text “HELLO” to 741741
  1. Veterans Crisis Line- Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255
  1. For more resources visit the National Institute of Mental Health website

Check out one of Austin's recent projects, a Corded Bench, here. Video tutorial included. 

Stay tuned for further updates on how Forest 2 Home will be participating in Mental Health Action Day and the steps you can take alongside of us to better advocate for mental health awareness and services. 


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