(photo courtesy Fitness World)
The Winter Wellness campaign will raise awareness and money for the importance of regular movement to combat winter seasonal depression and anxiety
BC based Fitness World and HeadsUpGuys, a mental health support program based out of the University of British Columbia (UBC), have partnered to address the pressing issue of mental health challenges in men during the colder months. This collaborative effort aims to promote the vital role that fitness, movement and social connection play in mitigating the effects of seasonal shifts in mood. The initiative also encourages conversation and provides access to support through HeadsUpGuys, an online, anonymous resource specifically designed for men and their families.
The winter season often increases mental health challenges, particularly in men. In Canada, men account for 75-80% of suicide deaths with untreated depression being a leading risk factor. The stigma associated with seeking help for mental health issues combined with more time spent sedentary during colder months only exacerbate the decline in mental health during this time, making it crucial to create an open dialogue and support system. Through this partnership, Fitness World and HeadsUpGuys are committed to breaking down these barriers and providing much-needed information and resources to help men face these challenges head-on.
“Fitness World believes that exercise is not just about physical health but mental well-being, with studies showing that at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week have a 22% lower risk of developing depression,” says Chris Smith, President and CEO at Fitness World. “Our partnership with HeadsUpGuys encourages us to break down barriers when it comes to talking about mental health by connecting with our male members and the larger community, promoting exercise as a preventative measure and coping mechanism during the winter months, and all year round. Local partnerships, like the one forged between Fitness World Canada and HeadsUpGuys, are integral in addressing the unique needs and challenges of British Columbia communities, harnessing combined resources and expertise to tackle the critical issue of mental health.”
Collaboration is at the heart of this partnership, with Fitness World Canada and HeadsUpGuys implementing a multi-faceted approach to make a real difference in the community through supporting their members, providing education tools for their staff, and enabling HeadsUpGuys to build up community resilience through donation.
Within the clubs, Fitness World is encouraging their members, both in-gym and through digital channels, to utilize HeadsUpGuys’ self-check tool. This tool enables individuals to reflect on their mental well-being while providing a valuable means of self-assessment and access to support.
Fitness World is committed to a 360 degree approach to fitness and wellness. Their training programs are based on the 5 pillars of fitness, one of which is Support, encouraging trainers to check-in on their clients, talk through challenges, and be a motivating support system for their clients. Fitness World is providing guidance for its employees and personal trainers to equip them to have meaningful conversations about mental health with members and clients. The aim is they will feel more confident directing individuals to resources available on HeadsUpGuys, ensuring that the entire Fitness World community is well-informed and compassionate when addressing mental health issues.
Finally, to further the impact of this local partnership. Fitness World is donating a portion of their membership enrollment fees to HeadsUpGuys throughout the month of November. This financial pledge not only underscores their unwavering commitment to the cause but also serves as a concrete illustration of the real-world influence that local partnerships can exert in effecting meaningful change.
Dr. John Ogrodniczuk, Founder of HeadsUpGuys, Professor of Psychiatry at UBC, and Director of the UBC Psychotherapy Program, said: “We know that many men struggle in silence, especially during the winter season. Our research shows that the one thing that can help, is what many men don’t like to do: ask for help. We hope through this partnership with Fitness World we can encourage men to reach out if they are struggling. Help is available, and it’s okay to ask for it. We want men to know that they are not alone in this journey.”
HeadsUpGuys was born out of the recognition that men’s mental health issues are often overlooked, which can have devastating consequences. Their online platform offers valuable information, guidance, and self-help tools. It includes tips and articles that arm men with the tools they need to fight depression, as well as recovery stories from men who have faced depression. Additionally, HeadsUpGuys provides an international therapist directory to connect men with local mental health professionals.
Both organizations are committed to promoting this message of community and self-care, encouraging men to seek support, and fostering a supportive community where mental health is discussed openly and without judgment. Together, they aim to combat the stigma of mental health issues among men during the winter months and promote the positive impacts of fitness and movement.