Running group strides to overcome mental illness

    13th annual Don River Run for Recovery: Sunday August 26 at 10 a.m. at
    CAMH's Brentcliffe Road site (175 Brentcliffe Road, Toronto)

    TORONTO, Aug. 20 /CNW/ - In addition to the hundreds of people expected
at this year's Don River Run, one group of runners plans to support one
another well beyond the finish line. Tom Allen formed PhACS (Physical Activity
for Consumer/Survivors) four years ago for runners who have battled mental
health issues to support one another while staying active and healthy.
    Having struggled with mental illness in his own past, Tom found physical
activity to be an outlet to help in his recovery and stay healthy. "Through my
own experience, I saw how physical activity can really improve the health of
those with mental health problems," he said.
    Much more than a running group, PhACS also acts as a social network and
provides much-needed support for those with mental health issues.
    Andreas Heiner is a testament to the positive effect physical activity
combined with peer support can have. Anxiety coupled with bouts of depression
left Andreas avoiding social situations for years, unable to sustain permanent
employment, and during one episode of depression, unable to leave his home for
two months. Andres came to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
two years ago seeking treatment for social anxiety disorder and found that
therapy helped him overcome patterns of negative thinking.
    He soon learned that the far-reaching effects of mental illness can
easily affect physical health as well. After years of isolation and inactivity
due to social anxiety disorder, Andreas was diagnosed with diabetes.
    "This was a real wake-up call for me and I decided that it was time to
get active," he said. After beginning to go on walks, Andreas found that being
active made him feel better, both physically and mentally, and three years ago
he joined PhACS. "At first I was shy and did not interact with many others in
the group, but in time, they became my friends." He said. "Not only does being
part of PhACS keep me active, it also helps me face some of my anxiety
problems and has helped improve my self esteem."
    Though Andreas still struggles with his anxiety, he has learned to better
interact with others and has channeled his experience into hope. He now works
for a consumer/survivor association, sharing his message of determination with
    All proceeds from the Don River Run go towards the Fitness in Treatment
Research and Advisory Panel (FITRAP) at CAMH, a multi-disciplinary body with
the mandate of promoting improvements in physical fitness among all addiction
and mental health clients at CAMH.

    The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is one of the leading
addiction and mental health organizations in North America and Canada's
largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital. CAMH is a Pan American
Health Organization and World Health Organization Collaborating Centre, and is
fully affiliated with the University of Toronto. CAMH combines clinical care,
research, policy, education and health promotion to transform the lives of
people impacted by mental health and addiction issues.

For further information:

For further information: Media Contact: Michael Torres, CAMH Media
Relations, (416) 595-6015

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