St. Joseph’s Healthcare has lots of success stories to tell about its run-therapy programs. The Team Unbreakable concept has blossomed into four run groups in 2014 and last year some people in the group were introduced to visiting Minister of Health Deb Matthews.
One graduating member started her own run program at the elementary school level. Others have gone on to secure jobs, to continue to run and receive support from their run groups and to improve their family connections.
The run-therapy program is co-led by Katie McCabe, an assistant professor at McMaster University and social worker, with Recreational Therapist Jeff Whattham. Both are employed by St. Joseph’s Healthcare where the programs are held.
Katie has worked 13 years as a social worker, providing counsel to individuals and groups. She met Dan McGann and the CameronHelps team and she was impressed by the successful Credit Valley Hospital program.
St. Joseph’s embraced the idea because there was a definite need for this type of program. Overall, 6.5% of youth in the 15-24 year age group are depressed. As well, medication doesn’t always work in helping mental illness, Katie says. The success rate for adults is only about 30% and for teens it’s not even that high, she says.
The science of exercise has been shown to be just as effective in recent studies, the social worker adds. Run therapy is an alternative to medication, says Jeff. “It’s out of the office, it gives you a sense of accomplishment and you learn a new skill. Anyone can do it,” he says.
Run therapy helps a person physically, socially and emotionally. As well, participants experience less anxiety, improved mood and self-esteem, adds Jeff.
The program is working on a series of measurements to determine benefits of run-therapy. There are weekly questionnaires and blood work tests for participants. Qualitative interviews are also help to draw out more responses. The team is trying to get grant funding for MRIs to study changes to the brain after increasing exercise.
Beyond the mood changes are the helpful relationships that develop, the leaders say. There are supportive connections with people that push you further; group members are open, upbeat, and welcoming.