Coping with depression and anxiety can be difficult for people who have turned to self-harm for relief. The Ranch of Opportunity provides a safe space for girls under the age of 18 who have escaped from violent and abusive lifestyles to learn how to cope differently with their lives.
Often times under the custody of the state, girls from all over Ohio come to the The Ranch of Opportunity in Fayette County, some with their only possessions inside a plastic bag. A lot of the girls are self-harmers, meaning that they have cut themselves or attempted suicide in the past because of violence or abuse.
Suicide attempts and self-harm are commonly attributed to depression and anxiety, and Terry Hopkins, The Ranch of Opportunity director, said the organization sees music as a valuable therapeutic tool because it can be utilized everywhere. It’s the biggest coping skill practiced at the ranch and is integrated in with art therapy, equestrian training, group, individual, and family counseling, and around-the-clock clinical nursing.
“We go through the therapeutic process with them,” said deputy director Amanda Gerber.
The goal of the therapeutic process is to equip the young women with the coping skills, talents and resources they need to be in control of unhealthy tendencies, like cutting their arms and legs when they feel stressed or anxious from past trauma.
“Let’s say for one of the girls that [cutting] was her coping mechanism before she came to The Ranch of Opportunity. That’s how she dealt with the traumatic experiences that she has endured, so we teach them different coping skills,” said Gerber. “In our facilities we make sure there’s no broken glass, there’s no broken plastic anywhere, we take all of those precautions. They can find anything: a deodorant cap, a toothbrush. So instead of doing that — because that gives them the sense of relief they are seeking — something different would be tearing up paper.”
Or, said Gerber, exercise is another way the program works to prevent young women from inflicting self-harm.
“Going for a walk, taking a jog and playing basketball are some of the other activities we encourage,” said Gerber.
Yet Gerber said listening to music remains the biggest coping skill for girls at the ranch.
“The girls listen to something positive that will take them somewhere else, allowing their anxiety to lessen,” said Gerber.
In the meantime the clinical staff works to treat the underlying causes of the depression or anxiety. That way, when the girls are someplace else eventually, they will have left strengthened with the skills for a healthier and more stabilized life.
“Our clinical people do a really good job of looking at why you feel that way and why you have to go to the point to hurt yourself, and then deal with the traumatic issues in that. Once depression comes into the picture, it’s important to realize that you’re not at fault,” said Hopkins.
Some of the girls while still at the ranch are giving back to the Fayette County community before leaving to be on their own. Most recently, one of the young women at the ranch sung the national anthem at the 2017 Fayette County Fair.
“It helps to bring some relief because now they can say ‘I don’t have to go there anymore because I’ve developed these other skills, these other talents, to deal with those stressors,’” said Hopkins.
Reach Ashley by calling her at (740) 313-0355 or by searching Twitter.com for @ashbunton