Using Sport to Build Confidence
In many cases, playing on a team, or doing group activities is a great way to build confidence in youth.
“By engaging in group activities, it provides people with a way to achieve at very different levels, and that is satisfying and helpful for mental health outcomes,” Sabiston said.
Mental health issues are becoming an increasingly bigger issue in today’s youth.
An estimated 10-20% of youth in Canada are affected by a mental illness or disorder, according to the CMHA.
“Half of my day as a general pediatrician is related to patients with mental health issues. It’s a huge part of my practice,” said Dr. Cameron.
Is exercise the new MEDICINE?
Yet, rather than rushing to write a prescription, doctors are now recommending exercise as a way to combat mental illness.
“Every day and every moment I recommended exercise as a way to help mental illness,” said Dr. Cameron.
Exercise has been shown to improve people’s mood, their subjective well-being, and lower depression and anxiety symptoms, because it can act as a distraction.
“Having exercise as an outlet allows for someone to not think about their day to day problems,” said Sabiston.
However, although exercise has a positive outcome in most cases, there are times when it should be approached with caution.
“There is a sliver of my medical encounters which involve individuals with eating disorders,” said Dr. Cameron.
Eating disorders are one of the exceptions to the exercise rule, because rather than helping these patients, it is putting them at risk. Doctors often have to discourage exercise, until these patients are able to maintain a healthy body weight.
“In these cases they are using exercise as a mistaken tool to change their body images,” Dr. Cameron said.
No matter how a child is suffering, there are programs offered to help make a difference and promote a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
The Jays Care Foundation and CameronHelps are both exercise-targeted programs, which work with youth suffering from mental health issues.
The Jays Care Foundation specializes in working with children from indigenous communities where there is a severely high rate of suicide among youth.
Robert Witchel announcing a $600,000 donation to the YMCA of Greater Toronto. (Photo courtesy of The Jays Care Foundation)
“We’re a small part of a mental health strategy that aims to get kids engaged, and build self-esteem, confidence and resiliency,” said Robert Witchel, the executive director.
Building confidence can allow a child to grow up to be better adjusted, making coping with stress and new challenges an easier task.
“If we do a good job, it could save someone’s life,” Witchel said.
CameronHelps has a more personal connection to youth struggling with mental health issues.
David Harris, the Founder and CEO of the charitable organization, lost his son to suicide in 2005. As a way to reach out and help other families, he started CameronHelps.
“I’ve worked with CameronHelps before, and it is a great program available for youth,” Sabiston said.
Their goal is to reduce the stigma surrounding youth mental illness, build awareness of the issues, and promote the positive aspects that physical health can reflect on mental health.