Dr. Jim Marshall had a wonderful life growing up on a farm. He had a beautiful wife and family, a thriving veterinary practice located in Fayetteville and no financial woes. Yet he said, "I didn't want to live."
After two suicide attempts and spending years battling from depression, the strong-willed survivor is ready to help others.
The Jim Marshall Farms Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, is dedicated to helping people with depressive illness. Its most urgent interest is to prevent someone from committing suicide, and to help those feeling despair to find and live a happy, productive life.
"When I finally recovered [from depression], I felt people could get better help than what I got when I was sick," said Marshall, who graduated from Cornell University Veterinary College.
Marshall's 84-acre working horse farm is used as a therapeutic environment to bring hurting people, animals and professionals together. The healing elements the rural setting provides incorporate the unconditional love of animals, along with Mother Nature's magic, Marshall said.
"Depression renders you almost morose in such a way that people have no interest in you," he added. "But animals don't care. They have an attraction and an uncompromised love for their people, so animals help when counselors can't."
While visitors don't actually ride the horses, their opportunity to bond with the animals comes through grooming them, brushing them and just spending time with them. Marshall said he encourages people facing struggle to visit the farm where they can benefit from both nature and animals.
"A lot of people have given me credit for saving their life," he said.
Located in Chittenango, the foundation offers various activities and events including a monthly lecture series and a "Walk and Talk" program. The "Walk and Talk" sessions utilize a walking path created for people to walk around the farm. There's a bench every 100 yards to rest if desired. The program, open to the public, is held year round every third Sunday of the month from 1 to 3 p.m. Guests can even take rides on horse drawn carriages and in addition, adaptive carts are available for people to drive or ride.