Petition E 2035 FAQ

What is this petition for/about?

We, the undersigned, the citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to recognize physical fitness as a form of treatment for physical injury and mental health issues. We request that physical fitness through a gym membership, personal training, and physiotherapy be made available through funding and specific programming to individuals suffering mental illness or chronic, life-altering disease or illness.

Who has brought this petition forward?

This petition was Initiated by Tara Leitch from Hagersville, Ontario, on February 5, 2019, at 1:44 p.m. It was carried forward by Diane Finley, MP for Haldimand-Norfolk in Ontario, Canada. 

Now Tara is in Partnership with Fitness for Mental Health. Working together to bring the goals of the petition to reality.

Where is this petition specific to?

This is a National Petition. All Canadians, should they wish, may sign and support this initiative.

Is there a deadline?

Yes. At least 500 signatures must be obtained by May 6th, 2019 at 1:44pm in order for it to be presented to parliament. Our goal is 10,000 signatures.

How will this help people?

It has been proven by a number of studies that physical fitness can help people suffering from Mental Illness and/or Chronic Disease. It can reduce some symptoms, improve overall health, bring focus and in some cases reduce the need for prescribed medications. 

Why tax our healthcare system more?

If doctors can prescribe physical fitness to their patients, the need for some prescribed drugs could diminish, if not disappear. Physical fitness has been shown to not only help decrease the risk of the development of some chronic diseases but also in the management of people who have existing conditions. Mental illnesses, diabetes, heart disease, fibromyalgia and even some types of cancer have been shown to improve with the addition of physical fitness.

"Exercise is well known to stimulate the body to produce endorphins and enkephalins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones which can make problems seem more manageable. The simple act of focusing on exercise can give us a break from current concerns and damaging self-talk. Further, depending on the activity, people may benefit from calming exercises, be energized, and get outside or interact with others, all of which are known to improve mood and general health." 

"On the treatment side, exercise appears to be as good as existing pharmacological interventions across a range of conditions, such as mild to moderate depression, dementia, and anxiety, and even reduces cognitive issues in schizophrenia." --

"Health experts regularly claim that exercise is one of the top things you can do to lower your risk of developing one of these chronic problems in the first place, but it’s also important to know that exercise can play a role in managing problems and symptoms you may already be experiencing, says Bradley Prigge, a wellness exercise specialist at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program.

“If you look at a range of things like high blood pressurehigh cholesterol levels, persisting pain, and inflammation — all of these things that are risk factors and symptoms of various chronic conditions — across the board, there is a huge value that comes from increasing fitness and your level of physical activity in your life,” Prigge says.

For instance, aerobic exercise can help prevent heart disease, but if you do develop markers of heart problems — such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure — moderate intensity activity can help stop those problems from causing more serious ones (such as heart attack or stroke).

Strength training builds muscle and promotes healthy joints, preserving mobility and function in healthy individuals as they age. But this type of exercise also helps decrease arthritis pain and can improve glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes. Simple flexibility exercises can help improve a range of joint motions, reducing risk for potential falls for everyone. (3) And for people with arthritis, stretching eases joint pain and prevents it from getting worse. (4)"

Will any Personal Trainer, Fitness Program or Gym be ok to use?

No. Our hope and goal is that there will be a process whereby doctors and patients will assess the patients eligibility for the program/funding with the help of Fitness for Mental Health. Fitness for Mental Health will help locate a trained and professional Personal Trainer or program offered by one of these trainers, so they may begin their treatment plan.

Since 2016, Fitness for Mental Health has trained over 25 fitness professionals during their educational pilot phase. Through a partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, FMH provides education on how to support clients when they are experiencing a mental illness.

The course teaches participants basic communication skills surrounding empathy and listening and discusses how to create a safe space for clients, while sharing stories through real-life conversations. The course will include information on how to improve personal mental well being, as individuals and within our community.

Continuing the Mental Health Conversation

TES, an international resource organization for educators, published an article last Wednesday discussing the importance of mental health curriculum in schools. Metro news picked up the story, and since my car radio is glued to Newstalk 1010, I overheard host Jerry Agar sharing his feelings on the topic while driving to work. Jerry questioned the need for mental health discussion in Kindergarten, and one of his panellists - Liberal MP Arthur Potts, responded with one of the simplest, most intelligent comments I have heard on the subject.

To paraphrase what he said:

“If we are checking in on kids’ teeth when they are in kindergarten, then why wouldn’t we be checking on their mental well being as well?”

The Metro news article states that issues of mental health tend to pop up “early” and that when teenagers find things difficult, they sometimes feel as if they are weird, or alone. Having lived experience as both a teenager, and as someone with mental illness, I would have to agree with this statement.  On the outside, it appeared that I had a high self esteem (a topic that was discussed more in those days), but on the inside, I felt that I was different. I knew that there was something going on with me, but I just didn’t know what it was.

It took me another 18 years to figure it out, and those years were not easy.

We have an opportunity right now to directly impact young people, and their ability to cope in a challenging and ever-changing world. The news of the UK shifting towards including mental health in their overall education curriculum is a big step.

Here is a short snippet of their plan, as outlined on the TES website:

·       In primary school, students will be discussing emotions and their impact on well-being.

·       In secondary school students will discuss anxiety, depression, psychosis, eating disorders and self-harm.

What I liked the most about their plan however, is that they are working to normalize the conversation around mental health by making it a part of daily discussions in all classrooms.  With a goal of training all teachers in Mental Health First Aid, the concept breaks the traditional mould of students having to ask for help, and encourages the discussion with all teachers, on a regular basis. This is extremely important given the fact that many young people just don’t know what’s going on with their emotions.

“If you only have one person in a school, it becomes a big deal if you have to seek them out,” said Jane Millward, E-Act deputy chief executive, who is overseeing the plan. “If you have to make an appointment with a special someone in a special room, that almost accentuates the stigma.”[1]

In Ontario, the Health and Physical Education Curriculum in Grades 7-11 includes discussion on Mental Health once per year, as part of a “Healthy Living” unit, and there are no expectations that mental health is discussed in Grade 12.  Teachers who deliver these lessons are provided with a variety of sample curriculums and online resources to use, however it is ultimately up to the individual teacher to decide how the information is relayed. Additionally, there is no standardized testing, or follow-up to ensure that students understand.

So, while we are a little behind the UK and their recent initiatives, we are getting closer every day, and there are things that we can do at home to encourage discussion.

I believe that it is extremely important for young people to understand that having a mental illness doesn’t mean having a stamp on your forehead that says “DAMAGED.” If adolescents are aware of the many things one can do to reduce symptoms, cope, and feel well, then perhaps they would be more open to asking for help.

The more we normalize the conversation around mental health, the brighter the future for the next generation. The sooner they learn how to talk about what’s going on with them, the sooner they can develop strategies to manage their lives, and the more successful they will be.

So, I encourage parents, family members and loved ones to have these discussions with their kids. It’s up to us to bring these conversations to the dinner table and help everyone feel comfortable saying “I’m not feeling well today” when it’s not about a tummy ache, or a runny nose.

As a society we need to shift more towards treating mental health as we do our physical health, and that starts with all of us - in the words we use, and the support we give one another every day.


If you or a loved one are in crisis, please contact the distress centre nearest you. The Access Point website has an extensive list of resources for those living in the Greater Toronto Area.

[1] Online Source: Adi Bloom; Every teacher must be trained in mental health first aid… November 1st, 2017