METAMORA — Mended Hearts is a Woodford County not-for-profit organization that goes beyond the usual therapy for mentally ill patients.
Twelve years ago, Julie Sellner, Mended Hearts executive director, created a place where patients could learn about their mental health issues by working with horses. She believed such a bond would draw out the best and worst in clients.
Now, this treatment in Woodford County could prove more effective than talk therapy. A recent study published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal revealed that 55 percent of suicidal teens seek help through talk therapy before thoughts of suicide take shape. Researchers said this shows most suicidal teens do not respond to talk therapy treatment.
"It's a developmental problem," Sellner, who began doing equine specialized therapy 20 years ago, said. "Children and teens aren't yet able to think through and rationalize their problems."
Interacting with horses provides a more hands-on style treatment, according to Sellner. She said she experiences a lot of what a patient feels on an emotional level when he attempts to ride a horse.
"If someone acts like the tough guy at school, his true colors are going to come out when he gets on the horse for the first time," Sellner said.
Not everyone feels comfortable riding or interacting with a horse at first. Some people experience fear, which Sellner said she manages to work through with such patients.
"We might have them stand next to (the horse), or groom it," Sellner said. "But we'll never force them to get on and start riding."
Mended Hearts houses eight horses, including Rocky, Brat, Sally, Apache and Jenteel, among others. Rocky was a donation; however, Sellner bought and paid for the rest of the horses.
Lestari Meier, Lem Reese and Jennifer Blumenshine encompass the rest of the staff. They served six clients in the summer 2012.
The services provided at Mended Hearts are available to anyone in the Tri-County area. Mended Hearts is located at 1431 Lourdes Road in Metamora. Call 383-4323 for more information.