The Orchard: a different approach to mental health

Skylar Linn has had a troubled past. 

An adult survivor of sexual abuse, Linn says she struggled with that abuse for years, sitting through years of therapy that didn’t work. 

Then she tried something new – meeting with other survivors, sharing stories and encouragement. 

"All of a sudden, all the things I learned in therapy were sinking in," Linn said. 

"I could put them into applicable use – and it just suddenly made sense in a way that it never had before," she said.

Now, Linn uses her experience to help others as the executive director of The Orchard, a non-profit mental health service that focuses on building relationships with members. 

The Orchard is run completely by people who struggled with mental health issues of their own – an approach, they say, that is unique to Lincoln. 

"We want to make sure everything, all the resources that people with mental health issues have available to them are actually being effective," Linn said. 

"And I really think that starts with relationship – an authentic relationship with a person who has been through what you’ve been through."

In less than two years since they opened shop near 13th and M, The Orchard has grown to house five full-time staff, more than 20 volunteers, and serves more than 1,000 people in Lincoln. 

Juli Loftin used to be one of those people. 

"I really did have a lot of purpose or meaning in my life," Loftin said. 

Today, she serves as site manager for The Orchard – a change she credits to the peer-based services they offer. 

"It makes a lot of my struggles worth what I went through. Because I can now use those to help other people," she said. 

Loftin is just one of the many success stories The Orchard has produced, with many members now holding down jobs and living in their own apartments. 

"Just the other day that happened," Loftin said. 

"One of our members had the opportunity to move out west and get a job there. He let me know that this place had changed his life."

For more information about The Orchard and the services they provide, visit their website at