Tag Archives: Youth Mental Health

Team Unbreakable Student Profile highlighting BEN HOPKINS

We recently had the opportunity to ask student Ben Hopkins, one of our most enthusiastic supporters of Team Unbreakable, to talk about his experience with the Program.  Here in his own words, is what he had to say:

When did you become involved with the Team Unbreakable program and what made you join?

In September of 2017, I joined the fitness club at my middle school. We trained every Wednesday morning and started running outside in March. Around April/May, our fitness coach told us about the Team Unbreakable Program and 5K run in June. I was worried at first, but what made we want to join was the fact that I was having such a good time running, especially with my friends. I also wanted to improve my mental well-being as well as my physical well-being — which is what the Team Unbreakable program helped me to do. I first became involved with the program when I did that run in June 2018, and it was amazing. 

What motivates you to run?

What motivates me to run is knowing that each time I do so, I become a better version of myself. On some days, I may be slower than I was the day before, but I know that each time I run: my heart becomes stronger, my mental well-being becomes stronger, and I become stronger as a person.

Please share a highlight or memorable moment from your experience with Team Unbreakable (This can include your training progress or the goal runs)

One of the many highlights I have had when running and training for the Team Unbreakable runs is when I completed my 5K in November 2019. I had been running before that, but not as frequently as I normally would, and I had no idea how fast I was compared to June. But I told myself, ‘You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone else, not even your past self.’ So even though I was worried about my time and worried about whether I could even complete the 5K without stopping, I did it anyway and got my fastest time yet. I believed in myself and as a result, I proved to myself that I am better than I thought I was.

Would you recommend this program to other students like yourself? Why?

I would most definitely recommend this program to other students who are my age, older, and younger because it is a great, fun way to get into running as the program isn’t competitive and everyone can run at their own pace and set personal goals. It also encourages good mental health through physical health, which is just as important as physical well-being; mental health is a very important aspect of everyday life and I am glad that the Team Unbreakable Program has helped me to realize that. This program is great for students especially because mental health is very important as we can sometimes face stress at school and feel anxious, and running with the program, or even training for it, can help battle that stress and allow you to become a stronger person at the same time.

Support Bell Let’s Talk For Mental Health Awareness January 29

On Wednesday, January 29, 2020, with your help Bell will donate to mental health initiatives across Canada by contributing 5¢ for every applicable text, call, tweet, social media video view, and use of their Facebook frame or Snapchat filter. Team Unbreakable is one of these initiatives.

Silence has been one of the biggest dangers to people with mental illness: silence allows stigma to grow; stigma causes shame, fear, and secrecy. And secrecy prevents people from seeking and getting the necessary help, attention, and care they need. Despite a call for action by an increasing number of people with mental health difficulties, for most Canadians, mental illness remained a topic not open for discussion. That is until Bell started a new conversation and created a needed dialogue about Canada’s mental health with “Let’s Talk Day” in September 2010.

For the past decade, Bell Let’s Talk has been increasing awareness about the importance of mental health by encouraging all Canadians to participate in the conversation with friends, family, and co-workers. Since Bell Let’s Talk Day began, 86% of Canadians reported that they are more aware of mental health issues, and the vast majority of Canadians now say they are comfortable speaking with others about mental health.

On January 29th, Team Unbreakable urges you to speak up and break the silence! Talk to friends and family about mental health! Help Bell help Team Unbreakable!

The race to end stigma starts now.

The Science Behind the Brain and Physical Activity

Team Unbreakable’s first annual Train the Trainer featured a host of fascinating topics and speakers. One of these speakers was Jennifer Lepock, a PhD Candidate in Neuroscience from the University of Toronto. Jennifer spoke on the current research underpinning exercise and mental health, along with her experience using running to help treat her mood disorder.

Jennifer started running in 2013. She used the sport to help stabilize her mood and ease the symptoms of her new medication. Her personal experience would go on to dovetail with her academic and professional pursuits.

Studies have shown that physical activity can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improve feelings of esteem and boost brain functioning in adolescents. “Higher levels of fitness benefit the brain structure and students feel better. This helps them with their school and social relationships,” Jennifer said.

But what is the actual neurochemistry behind physical activity?

Jennifer explained to the group that running triggers neurotransmitters that send chemical messages between the neurons.  Serotonin is increased when we run, which helps to regulate mood.

Studies have shown that running at least 30 minutes, three times a week can help people better deal with stress, improve the ability to focus and help treat more chronic issues related to psychosis, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s, Jenny said.  Elevated dopamine levels contribute to these results.

And there are additional benefits related to other brain chemicals

Jennifer said that after 30 minutes of running, many people experience a ‘runners high’ that will make them feel better and block pain.  Cortisol levels are higher, and more oxygen is getting to the brain resulting in more adrenaline in the body including the hormone epinephrine. Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone that help us fight off illness or infections, Jenny added. This “natural high” likens the effect of cannabis.

Jennifer is her last year of the Doctorate Degree. She has volunteered with Team Unbreakable since 2016. The focus of her work is early onset psychosis and schizophrenia in youth populations.

Team Unbreakable Expanding Reach In 2020

More schools have been hearing about the successes of Team Unbreakable.

Fresh off a Bold and Cold 5k that exceeded fundraising and participation expectations, the plans for Spring 2020 are to double the number of schools from the current 13 to 25. The program is creating a buzz in the community.

New this year is a “Train the trainer” seminar on Dec. 8 at The Runners Academy in Toronto. Current and prospective team leads will be led through the updated materials, taken through drills, and will learn about the neuroscience of running.  The University of Toronto’s Mental Health and Physical Activity lab has collaborated with Team Unbreakable to produce new videos and program content for this spring’s training block.

Team Unbreakable is poised for its start up in York Region, while continuing to support old and new programs in Peel, Halton, and Walkerton.  “We’re pleased with the growing support and enthusiasm for the program as more schools come on board next year,” said Nils.  “It’s a testament to the positive changes we’ve implemented.”

If you’re interested in supporting Team Unbreakable as a volunteer, contact nilsb@teamunbreakable.ca

We wish you all a Happy Holidays and a safe and Happy New Year! See you in 2020.

Toronto Bold And Cold 5K Had Record Number of Participants

The Toronto Bold And Cold 5k run hosted by Team Unbreakable Nov. 28 was sold out, with 530 people participating. The run also raised over $26,000 which will be used to help improve programming and expand its services to new schools in new communities.

“It was an excellent event and perfect weather. Everyone commented on how they loved it, from the students, teachers, parents and community members,” said Program Director Nils Blondon.  There were over 300 participants from Toronto-area elementary and high schools, one from the hospital run therapy teams and a group from York University.

“The support was fantastic, from those who volunteered to help on race day, to those who pledged donations to the runners and contributed materials or supplies.  We especially like to thank Anthony’s No Frills in Parkdale for their generous donation of all the food and drinks for the event. They brought a team of about 15 people with them who either ran themselves with family members or helped distribute the bagels, bananas, juice and hot chocolate.”  Anthony’s No Frills also supported the costs of having D. J. Elegance entertain all participants with great motivational music.

“We had two Platinum donors in Cynthia Solomon and Patricia Wright who contributed significantly towards our program and we couldn’t have done it without the over 20 members of the High Park Rogue Runners who came out to marshal and hand out medals. Simone Sicard has been a long-time volunteer at our registration desk and Amanda Brown coordinated the food tent for us.  Longboat Roadrunners lent us their timing clock and Mark Trenton volunteered once again as our race course lead. Thank you for everyone’s contribution!” said Nils.

Team Unbreakable is busy preparing for expanding its programs in the 2020 winter-spring session and on Dec. 8 there will be a training program for new and existing coaches.  If you would like to support the charity’s winter fundraising campaign, the Board of Directors is doubling the impact by matching all donations received. https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/teamunbreakable/

Contribute to our Winter Fundraising Campaign

Contribute to Something Special. 

Team Unbreakable’s “Holiday Giving” Program helps us make a real-world impact in Team Unbreakable Programs Across the Province, and with your support, the Country.

Across the province, students, teachers and community leaders believe in the value of Team Unbreakable.  We teach our young people that running affects their mood, improves their mental health, and gives them a tool to manage stress, anxiety and depression. They build confidence, self esteem and resilience.  That’s why we call it Team Unbreakable!  Help us place more youth in Team Unbreakable programs with a donation today.

Donate Here

Funding is a major obstacle in the development on new Team Unbreakable programs in much needed areas of the province. A $100 donation will support a student through our 12-week program.  A $20 donation will provide a student with a finishing medal and T shirt for the final 5K culmination run.

Team Unbreakable Board Members have pledged to match every dollar received during this December campaign.

That means what you give will have twice the impact!

Please help us to continue and expand our programs in the Toronto area and in other parts of the province. Your past support has been appreciated.  We wish you the very best wishes this holiday season and in the New Year.

Nils Blondon,
Program Director, Team Unbreakable