About the Project

The goal of this project is to reduce barriers for people with mental health-related disabilities to participate in physical activity programs offered by recreation and fitness organizations.

The Enabling Minds project will develop tools and training resources to support organizations in the recreation and physical activity sector to meet the requirements of the customer service and information and communication standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.

The resources developed by Enabling Minds will be available by spring 2015.

Rationale and Benefits

Physical activity can play an important role in promoting positive mental health and supporting recovery from mental illness. Given that people with a mental health-related disability are at increased risk of developing chronic physical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, physical activity is strongly recommended to reduce risk and help manage chronic physical conditions.

People living with a mental health issue may encounter barriers that prevent them from accessing physical activity resources at community centres, private fitness clubs, public parks and other recreation or fitness facilities. These barriers may be related to social determinants such as poverty that disproportionately affect people living with mental illnesses; they may arise from the mental health condition itself; or they may be related to the stigma surrounding mental illness.

In addition, people with mental health-related disabilities may be dissuaded from joining a physical activity facility due to high-energy marketing tactics or realistic or perceived concerns that these programs are not able to accommodate them as customers. For example, inflexible membership policies may serve as a disincentive for people who experience episodic limitations to participate in physical activity programs.

For individuals who surmount these barriers and join a physical activity/recreation facility, there is still the possibility that staff lack information on how to engage and customize training for members who have a mental health-related disability. This may be particularly the case for individuals who are taking medications. Motivational strategies as well as physical training regimes typically recommended by trainers may not be appropriate for them.

Training resources and tools developed in this project for staff and management, combined with supportive organizational policies, may significantly reduce barriers and improve access to recreation facilities for people experiencing mental health conditions.

Project Objectives

To develop tools and resources and pilot a training curriculum:

  • to improve mental health literacy among both managers and front-line staff, to increase their understanding of mental health conditions and to sensitize them to the barriers faced by individuals with a mental health-related disability
  • to equip employees with the confidence, knowledge and skills to respond appropriately
  • to offer guidance to organizations to implement supportive corporate policies to meet their AODA requirements
  • to provide tools and resources to assist organizations to develop non-stigmatizing communication and outreach strategies.

Target Audience

The audience for this project is recreation and fitness organizations. Tools and resources will be targeted to:

  • executives/managers who are in charge of setting direction and transforming the culture of their organization
  • staff who deal with marketing, communications and membership development
  • fitness trainers and other front-line staff who are in contact with members and/or participants

For More Information

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