In the summer many of us are working and playing to stay in shape. Not everyone is so lucky – those among us living with mental illness don’t always have access to outdoor spaces, gym memberships, quality running shoes or the habits of eating well and exercising. Indeed a large number of our clients struggle with weight issues including obesity and may be disadvantaged regarding their health, which has an adverse effect on their mental health.
CMHA Toronto responded to this a couple years ago by piloting a six-month healthy living program which helps individuals living with mental illness understand the links between body and mind. Our ACT Now! program provides preventative health care and assistance in developing strategies to reduce the incidence of co-existing and chronic conditions.
ACT Now! has proven to be a huge success. To date, there have been 73 participants, 615 pounds lost, and 76 inches lost in waist circumference. Although the program’s focus is on weight and waist circumference loss, increased physical activity, prevention of chronic disease and adapting healthy lifestyle change, many participants have also reported a strengthened peer support network, better sleep, increased confidence, energy and motivation to maintain their new lifestyle.
Our clients could use your help
We’ve recently expanded ACT Now! to our Lawrence Square office, and, while we anticipate similarly positive results, we need some assistance getting this program established for the long term.
How ACT Now! works
Three times per week our ACT Now! team works closely with clients so they learn to budget effectively, read lables, make healthy food choices and ultimately see the connection between physical activity and improved mental and physical health.
We host cooking classes at our social resource centres and take clients on active social outings. We exercise together at our office, following along to videos which we make sure they can also access online at home. We work to keep our clients motivated and regimented and use data to track their progress: monthly weigh-in’s, metabolic monitoring, health and educational workshops enable participates to yield positive health outcomes. Our priority is for clients to see and feel the results and we reward clients for their successes.
Rosalind and Cynthia are benefiting
Rosalind and Cynthia (seen in photo along with Stacey, Act Now Committee Member) are both enjoying the burgeoning program at Lawrence Square. Three years ago Rosalind began experiencing severe panic attacks. She found it stressful to attend to her day to day activities and was suffering. When Rosalind became a client of CMHA Toronto our staff decided that in addition to her other treatments she required anxiety medication. Unfortunately this added significant weight and affected her overall health, confidence and reinforced her anxiety.
Cynthia had been hospitalized several times due to complications from Bi-Polar Disorder and was also suffering from fibromyalgia. Fortunately she connected with CMHA Toronto and a case manager who recommended our ACT Now! program.
Today, Rosalind and Cynthia are great examples of progress made through ACT Now! Cynthia says, “I feel much better. This is definitely beneficial to my fibromyalgia and I feel more positive about myself. I look forward to coming to the classes – it gets me out of the house – but I do more than just the workouts at CMHA: I access the workout videos at home and I do yoga there, too. The past few months I’ve been doing the routine every single day without fail and now I’m energized and optimistic about the future.”
Rosalind says she would be lost without her case manager and she still experiences some anxiety attacks. “But now I’m more aware and better equipped to manage. The exercises help me relax, and the classes help me make informed choices when shopping and cooking. And by doing the exercises at home as well, I’ve lost that extra weight!”