Why race for change?

c.07Dear friends,

My 2012 World’s Toughest Mudder race is over (see my results here) but the challenge of shifting our “mental health consciousness” in Canada is an ongoing one. Therefore, I intend to continue competing in a variety of ultra-endurance and obstacle races as a means of raising awareness about mental health issues in Canada. My plan is also to collaborate, as much as possible, with those implementing other mental health initiatives, and to speak to different groups (e.g., students, athletes, academics, physicians, the general public) about the importance of seeking help for mental health issues and pushing our government to improve access to psychological services.

The general argument I like to give for why you, as a Canadian citizen, should fight for greater access to psychological services is straightforward and can be broken down into a series of five premises. First, as is the case with physical health, mental health issues affect all Canadians, either directly or indirectly (indeed, physical health and mental health are two sides of the same coin!). For example, at any given time, 1 in 5 Canadians are struggling with diagnosable mental illness (this doesn’t include those who are experiencing more moderate mental health issues), with the remaining 80% (e.g., friends, family, coworkers) being affected indirectly by these illnesses [i]. Second, while mental health issues affect all Canadians in this way, effective and economical psychological treatments are currently available for a wide variety of these issues [ii]. Third, although Canadians want access to these psychological services [iii], 2 out of 3 individuals struggling with a mental illness will not seek help [iv]. Fourth, the major barrier to why most people do not seek help for mental health difficulties is problems with access [iii] – that is, most people cannot access psychological services, either because they cannot afford them or because the waitlist for the few publicly available services is too long (the stigma associated with mental illness is another major barrier). The fifth and final premise is that the economic cost of poor mental health in Canada (both direct and indirect), is staggering: an estimated $50 billion annually [v]. Of course, the human costs of poor mental health are impossible to quantify.

The conclusion is simple: Like it or not, the current lack of access to psychological services is affecting you, personally. This can affect you directly, by limiting your access to effective psychological treatments that are available or by forcing you to pay for these services yourself, or both. The lack of access to effective psychological services can also affect you indirectly, via the colossal negative impact of mental illness on the economy or because someone in your life is struggling with a mental health issue and they similarly don’t have access to these services, or both. The good news is, you can actually do something about this problem, and it’s very, very easy to do. Read on….

Since I began my mental health awareness campaign last year, there have been a couple of important developments on the advocacy front. First, at the Manitoba Psychological Society (MPS), we have officially launched our Mind Your Mental Health campaign. The MYMH.ca website proudly sports a dynamic, user-friendly interface that clearly outlines our campaign objectives, has plenty of fact sheets about common mental health issues. It also offers straightforward information on how to obtain psychological resources, and has hi-resolution wallpaper downloads for your laptop, tablet, and/or smartphone. Most importantly, it offers a link to a built-in letter-form feature (hosted at http://www.cpa.ca) that allows you to contact your local politician to let them know that you think psychological services should be covered by the health care plan. Filling out one of these letters takes five minutes and is currently the single most effective thing you can do to push our government to increase access to effective mental health services.

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A second, more recent development is that the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), in cooperation with MPS, has adopted our MYMH campaign as its national mental health awareness campaign! This means the MYMH campaign is here to stay, and that you’ll likely be seeing the Mind Your Mental Health message wherever you are, from coast to coast! CPA has also launched a MYMH Facebook page, so I encourage you to “like” it in order to keep up to speed with what’s going on with the mental health movement in Canada.

In sum, the success of this campaign is a huge accomplishment that we at MPS feel very proud of…and all you Manitobans out there should feel very proud too! We’re leading the way in the fight for a more progressive health care system in Canada! There’s still plenty of work to be done and with your continued support we’ll do our best to make it happen.

I will also do my best to provide regular updates about my personal and professional activities as things evolve (you can also follow me on Twitter @Psych_Clone). For now though, keep your eyes peeled and your ear to the ground. And don’t forget to use the resources around you (e.g., here, here, and here) to Mind Your Mental Health!

Warmest regards,

Caelin

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Caelin White, M.A., Ph.D. Candidate (Clinical Psychology)

Psychological Associate

University of Manitoba

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References:

[i]  Health Canada. A Report on Mental IIllness in Canada, 2002.

[ii] Refer to document here.

[iii] Refer to document here.

[iv] Statistics Canada. Canadian community health survey: Mental health and well-being. 2002.

[v] National Physician Survey, 2007.

Recent Posts

World’s Toughest Mudder 2014 – Rumble In the Desert

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When one thinks about beating the odds in Vegas, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t a no-holds-barred obstacle course race in the Nevada desert. But that’s exactly the task I’ll be facing November 15th and 16th, 2014. Yes, it’s that time again (when will I ever learn?). In two weeks, I’ll be suiting up for another round of World’s Toughest Mudder, a gruelling 26-hour ultra-endurance race testing the limits of physical and mental performance. This year, the race has relocated from the damp New Jersey bog to the crisp Nevada desert, just east of Las Vegas.

Tough Mudder has also shuffled the deck again this year when it comes to obstacles, creating new challenges requiring increased agility and strength and, as usual, keeping racers in the dark as to precisely what’s in store. The course is also shorter (about 5 miles; probably because it’s easier and cheaper to manage a shorter course and better for spectators) and more jam-packed with tougher obstacle in order to help level the playing field for racers that aren’t necessarily ultra-runners. That being said, the name of the game is still distance covered and so those with the strongest cardiovascular endurance and mental grit (and a bit of luck) will get closest to the crown.

I’ll be racing against some of the world’s most elite athletes, including previous WTM victors, Ryan Atkins, Junyong Pak, Amelia Boone, and Deanna Blegg. A friend of mine from Winnipeg, Johnny Fukumoto, has also been training hard for his first WTM attempt and I’m sure he’ll be arriving at the start line with battery acid in his veins. It’ll be nice to have him on the course and to suffer with after it’s all over.

I’m also looking forward to seeing the old OCR gang and to meeting new folks. In general, OCR athletes are a weird and wonderful bunch, with amazing life stories and a DNA-level determination to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others – at the every least by inspiring others through example. While I’m generally impartial to the different OCR franchises, I truly love the people that compete in these wild races.

As a disclaimer, I should note that I don’t expect to repeat my 2012 performance this year. As a result of moving cities, beginning a time- and energy-intensive clinical residency, I simply haven’t had the resources to train like I would have liked. With that being said, I’ve still been training hard and hope to crank out a decent campaign. On an unforgiving race course for 26 hours, things can unravel in a heartbeat, and so adapting and adjusting one’s strategies, pace, and equipment on the fly – staying ahead of the curve – is still the name of the game…particularly in a temperamental winter desert where temperatures and terrain conditions can rapidly deteriorate from day to night.

So what has my training looked like? Well, after moving to Calgary at the end of August, I had to first familiarize myself with the surrounding geography and terrain, and begin scouting locations that replicated the conditions I might encounter in the Nevada desert. This meant getting out into the mountains, onto rugged and sandy trails, and into cold water. As usual, ice baths are in the mix too. One major difference this year is that, with the exception of maintaining grip strength, I’ve consciously avoided extensive upper body training in order to drop body mass. I’ve also been putting in tons of hours trail running and hill training. My equipment plan is also different, though I won’t say how (hey, a guy’s gotta keep some of his secrets to himself). So we’ll see whether this strategy pans out.

In terms of training locations, well Alberta is a veritable Mecca for outdoor activity, so instead of describing it I’ll just shut up and let the photos do the talking….

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Glenmore Reservoir

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Top of Ha Ling Peak

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Kananaskis Valley

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Barrier Lake

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Centennial Ridge and Mount Allan

In terms of the WTM race itself, here’s a description from the Tough Mudder website:

Location:

Located 35 minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip (the event’s first major obstacle is leaving the partying until afterwards), and just 30 minutes from Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport (LAS), Lake Las Vegas is an ideal venue for the 2014 World’s Toughest Mudder. The site contains several hundred acres of rolling desert landscape and runs alongside a massive freshwater lake. Several natural terrain features and use of the lake will be incorporated into the WTM course design. Temperatures are also expected to fluctuate significantly between day and night.

Race Format

WTM 2014 is a 5-mile circuit race with 20-25 of Tough Mudder’s insane obstacles, including the debut of new 2015 obstacles and a handful of WTM only obstacles, at a rate of 4 obstacles per mile. Participants set up camp in an area called “The Pit” in order to rest, recharge and refuel during the event – aided by up to 2 “Pit Crew” per participant (see below). When it’s over, the event winners will be the man, woman and team (4+) that achieve the most laps in a 24-hour period between 10:00:00am, November 15th, 2014 and 10:00:00am November 16th, 2014 (participants then will be given until 12:00:00pm to finish their final lap). For more information, please see the “official rules” below.

WTM Eligibility

Before you consider entering World’s Toughest Mudder®, you must understand this event will push you to your limits and beyond. Only those who are in top physical condition, maintain (or are willing to initiate) a regular workout regime – and most of all who have completed multiple Tough Mudders or events of comparable difficulty – should even consider registering.

Ultimately, however, this event is not about how fast you can run or how much you can lift or having a set of six-pack abs. It is about having the determination, strength, stamina, and mental and physical grit to go 24 hours, alongside the most hardcore Mudders on the planet, and beyond what you ever thought you would be able to accomplish. Whether your goal is 25 miles (nearly 1/3 of the field), 50 miles, or 75 and beyond, those who register for this event must be prepared to put in a lot of hard work before event day. Because when it comes to World’s Toughest Mudder, you better show up as the best version of yourself–or not at all. If that sounds like something you want to do, then WTM might be for you. If not, then please type http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com into your web browser and spend your hard-earned dollars there instead. (We hear their new line of duvet covers are just luxurious.)

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