The System Gap

Fitness for Mental Health was founded with the goal of providing fitness support services to individuals who are living with depression and anxiety. Medical research has proven that physical activity contributes to the decrease in symptoms associated with Mental Illness, yet there is still a major gap in access to services in Canada.

We believe that we can fill this gap.  

If you’ve ever been to your family doctor to talk about your symptoms from a mental illness, you’ve likely been asked the following questions:

“Are you coping ok?”

“Do you have a solid support structure?”

“Are you thinking of harming yourself or others?”

As a recent article in the Toronto Star describes, what happens next will vary based on your family doctor. Often, the next step is the discussion of medication.

I’d like to note off the top that I’m not here to put down the use of prescription drugs in the treatment of Mental Illness.  In fact, I personally have found that Lorazepam (Ativan) works to ease symptoms of anxiety on a periodic basis, when I am unable to exercise daily, due to illness or life obligations. Additionally, many people find medication not only useful – but necessary for daily function. For many others, however; it is a challenging if not impossible ordeal to find a drug that works with their body chemistry in a way that does not cause debilitating side effects.

The first time I spoke to a doctor about this uneasy feeling was in 2010. My job was stressful, I didn’t feel supported at work, and all around me it felt as though the walls were caving in. I told the doctor that I thought I had high blood pressure.

“I can feel tingling in my fingers and it feels like there is blood rushing through my veins.”

I literally had NO IDEA what was going on with me. For all I knew, I was a 26-year-old with an early onset of heart disease. The doctor wrote me a letter so that I could take some time off work and that was the end of it. She didn’t talk to me about what I may have been experiencing – so I just chalked it up to a challenging job and a not-so-awesome group of coworkers. And I moved on.

Fast forward six years later, November 2016 and I’m in a similar position at work. I’m stressed to the max with little support from management and colleagues. After a couple weeks of intense build-up, a very high-pressure event occurs, and the symptoms return. I go to the doctor, but this time, I’m a little more versed on mental illness. I’ve read about depression and anxiety and I’m familiar with the symptoms.

“I think I had a panic attack, or maybe two.”

“Are you coping ok?” No.

“Do you have a solid support structure?” Yes.

“Are you thinking of harming yourself or others?” No.

I’m given a prescription and told to take some time off work.

Don’t get me wrong, my doctor is fantastic. I wouldn’t have been able to get through that time if it wasn’t for her kindness and support. However, reaching for the prescription pad is an all-to-common way of treating mental illness, and as a physician friend of mine puts it:

“Prescribing medication for mental illness is like playing Russian roulette with brain chemistry.”

The same friend also told me that often, physicians will write the following on a prescription pad:

“30 minutes of high intensity exercise performed 3 times per week.”

And that’s where we come in.

Many people don’t know where to start when it comes to exercise. Often, without someone there to motivate, the prescription isn’t followed appropriately. Our team of Fitness Support professionals is here to help you break own the barriers and get you back to a healthy, more balanced state.

Call us today to create your Fitness Recovery Plan, and take the next step towards feeling better, sooner.