Healthy Living in the North

Learning on the job: finding wellness as a professional physiotherapist

For Christina Conrad, a newly minted physiotherapist based in Prince George, life and wellness can be thought of like a tree.

“It’s important to have lots of different branches on the tree. If each branch represents a facet of your life, then it’s important to have more than one branch. If something upsetting or challenging at work happens (which can happen in health care!), it’s not your whole life and there are other things in life that balance you out. It doesn’t shake your tree that bad.”

I had the opportunity to chat with Christina about life in physio, and how she finds wellness as a professional and as an individual. Here’s what she had to say.

Tell me about life as a new physiotherapist.

woman riding a bike through a desert .I’ve been in my current role for a year and a half at the University Hospital of Northern BC. As a physiotherapist, I’ve worked in many different areas of the hospital. A lot of my day-to-day work involves helping people do the things they need to do daily. Getting out of bed, standing, walking, that kind of thing. It can be very hands-off or very hands-on with someone who is very ill or who has just had a major surgery.

What are your thoughts on wellness?

I learned during my student years about how not to incorporate wellness into your life. Being a student, you don’t necessarily take conscious breaks and I realized I needed to create space outside of work for myself and not necessarily fill that time with more work. I knew if I were to stay in this type of practice long-term, I’d need to be strong physically. The stats show that young workers are at the highest risk for injury, so it’s important to be conscious of that while working. The way I think of it is you need to strengthen your body outside of work so you can be strong at work.

Tell me about a time you had to focus on personal wellness at work.

There was a time at work where I was transferring a patient, when I realized that if I was going to do other transfers safely, I needed to be a lot stronger. In my profession we have a lot of equipment to assist so we’re less likely to be injured, but in that moment I realized, wow I need to join a gym!

After that experience, I realized that I needed to be well in order to help others. You’re not able to do your job well if you’re not taking care of yourself.woman skiing with arms raised high.

How do you incorporate wellness into your work and personal life?

At work I wear a pedometer that tracks my steps. If I haven’t met my step goal by lunch, I make a point to go for a walk. Sometimes I’ll walk or bike to work. Outside of work, I like to go running and mountain biking. We’ve got some great places in Prince George! In the winter, I like to downhill ski, or cross-country ski. I even took lessons this winter! I think living in the north, you have to find ways to enjoy all the seasons. From the physio perspective, there’s a big emphasis on exercise but community and creativity are also important for your wellness. I realized I was lacking creativity in my life so I joined the PG Potters guild. I think it’s important to develop communities outside of work.

Do you have any tips for those looking to enhance wellness on or off the job?

Wearing a pedometer or smart watch to track my steps has been helpful for me. It helps me measure my physical activity and gauge how I’m doing that day. Learning how to balance, the skill for separating work from the rest of life, has also been helpful. I knew starting out that if I wanted to be in this profession long-term, I’d have to learn how to balance. When there are challenges at work and you bring it home, it can carry over into the rest of your life. One of the things that helps me avoid this is walking home. For me it’s about a 30-minute walk. It gives me time to debrief and acts like a timer so that when I get home, I can move on with the rest of my day.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

A Northerner since childhood, Haylee has grown up in Prince George and recently completed her Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Northern British Columbia. During university Haylee found her passion for health promotion while volunteering heavily with the Canadian Cancer Society and was also involved with the UNBC JDC West team, bringing home gold as part of the Marketing team in 2016. Joining the communications team as an advisor for population and public health has been a dream come true for her. When she is not dreaming up marketing and communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or enjoying a glass of wine with friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Dr. Knoll’s Recipe for Wellness

How does someone in the world of medicine and healthcare manage their own wellness? I think many people just assume, “Hey, she’s a doctor, she must be healthy – she’s so involved in supporting wellness that it must be just easy!”

The fact is, it’s not that easy.

Yes, doctors help patients with their health every day, from stitches to prescriptions and everything in between, but the reality is often overlooked. They are people too! They’re individuals who, like everyone else, need their own wellness and support systems, inside and outside the busy healthcare system.

This past month, I had a chance to speak with Dr. Susan Knoll, a family practitioner, someone who, among many other wonderful traits, has incorporated wellness throughout her life. Here’s her story.

Dr Knoll cross country skiing with her husband.

What did your road to practicing medicine look like?

Helping people has always been a passion of mine, and when I was in high school I enjoyed biology and physics. Truthfully, my mother suggested medicine and got me thinking it might be possible. If you were pointed in the sciences direction out of grade school when I grew up, the choices were a little more limited than they are now!

I completed my two year pre-medical and my full medical program at the University of Saskatoon, and then went on to residency for a year each in Saskatoon and Regina. Once my residency finished, I moved to La Ronge, Saskatchewan, a town of 5,000 people, where I spent nine wonderful years!

What inspires your personal wellness?

Wellness for me comes down to what I preach to my patients. Life is a pie, and each piece represents an important component. Each slice needs to be addressed or the pie will have a hole.

These are my life’s seven pie pieces:

Family. My relationship with my husband Garry is key. Having medicine in common, we’ve been able to provide each other with support inside and outside of work. Other common interests allow us to do lots together outside of work too! One of these is our family, and now grandkids, who live down the street from us!

Faith. Before I attended the University of Saskatoon for pre-med, I attended a year of bible school – my faith has had a large role in my wellness to this day. It’s truly special to be involved in a dedicated community of people who are like-minded, accountable, there for you in the tough times, and celebrate with you in times of achievement. This another thing that Garry and I share.

Friends. I’ve got great colleagues and peers. I’ve always believed that, in many ways, successful office-partner relationships are like a marriage. They take effort to maintain – and don’t get in a relationship you don’t think will work! Even though I have amazing friends inside the world of medicine, I’ll admit sometimes this line of work can be overwhelming. It’s important to have friendships with people outside the medical community so you can take a breath, reset, and keep perspective.

Exercising. I use a Fitbit! Any encouragement to get up and move is good, but I’ve always thought the more outside the better: cross-country skiing, biking, walking, and gardening are some of my favourites! I don’t always achieve my daily goal, but when I do, I feel much better.

Dr Knoll standing on a cliff by the ocean.Finances. Finances are a major stressor for a lot of people and there is a lot of pressure to live beyond our means. I think the better you manage your money, the less stress it is. Simply said, but not always as easily done!

Holidays. We try to always have a holiday planned. It doesn’t necessarily have to be right away, but it gives us something to look forward to! By the time you finish a holiday, I think you should have another one in the works, even if it’s six months away! Change is good.

Fulfilling work. I find much joy in my work. We often think of work as a necessary evil, a kind of drudgery. But I think being able to do meaningful work, making the world a better place, and having some positive impact on those around me is important to my sense of well-being.

If you could pass on one wellness tip to another person, what would you say?

Balance. As I tell my patients, moderation is the key. Not too much of anything, but get enough of everything!

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Views: The 2018 Northern Healthcare Travelling Roadshow

The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow was conceived as a grass roots initiative to address rural healthcare workforce shortages. It brings together a multidisciplinary group of health-care students from post-secondary institutions around B.C. to showcase career opportunities to rural high school students. Since 2010, the roadshow has connected with more than 8500 students in 43 communities across the province. There are now two roadshows run each spring through the Northern Medical Program, as well as one through the Southern Medical Program (Kelowna).

Nope. It’s not a blog on Drake’s 2016 album – not even close. It’s better! Check out some of the amazing things the travellers of the 2018 Northern Healthcare Travelling Roadshow got to see and experience!

A big thank you to Ellen Kaufman, nursing student, for the wonderful pictures and captions!

Mayor of Smithers on a bike showing off city.

The Mayor of Smithers, Taylor Bachrach, met with the 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow participants to show them around this beautiful northern community. Here, he explains the skiing options available at Hudson Bay Mountain.

brewery with wood bar and chairs

The Bulkley Valley Brewery opened in the summer of 2017. Here, the 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow participants learn about entrepreneurship in Smithers.

hospital parking lot with front lawn

The Bulkley Valley District Hospital (BVDH) is a 25-bed acute care facility in the community of Smithers, BC. The participants of the 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow were given a tour of the facility and learned about what makes this hospital such a positive team environment with modern technology and equipment.

bugwood bean wood storefront

The Bugwood Bean is a wonderful, locally-owned coffee shop on Main Street. Make sure you stop by for a fresh cup of your favourite coffee or tea!

library with mountains outside

A view of the Smithers Public Library and Hudson Bay Mountain from Main Street.

group standing in front of big wood sign

The 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow participants are excited to be heading north on the scenic Cassiar Highway. The journey continues!

last frontier lodge outside

Located at the second crossing of the Bell-Irving River, Bell 2 offers fuel services, full restaurant, general store, cabin rentals, and most excitingly, a helicopter ski lodge (pictured here). The Last Frontier Heli-Skiing Lodge boasts some of the most extensive back country skiing options in the world!

huge mountain with a white peak

Leaving behind the beautiful mountains of the Bulkley Valley as the 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow heads northwest.

wood lodge with trees behind it

The 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow participants spent the night at the Tatogga Lake Lodge, located approximately 100 km south of Dease Lake. This lodge has a very rustic feel to it and friendly staff who will make you feel at home in the wilderness. Coffee is always on!

Some of the 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow participants warm themselves by the fire in the Tatogga Lake Lodge. This lodge sports several different species of taxidermy animals such as moose, caribou, wolverine, grizzly bear, and timber wolves.

icy cold lake with mountain in the background

Tatogga Lake and the surrounding mountains are truly breathtaking, especially at sunset. Make sure to spend some time outdoors as you explore the great north!

lunch with the team on a cold day

After visiting the small community of Dease Lake, the 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow participants enjoy a hearty outdoor lunch of soup and sandwiches. At this time of year, the weather is still cool and rainy, but some hot soup keeps you feeling toasty!

black bear walking across highway

The Cassiar Highway (HWY 37) is abundant with wildlife. Here, a black bear saunters casually across the roadway near Dease Lake, BC.

raw jade being sold outside

Here, raw pieces of jade can be seen before they are polished and carved into statues, jewelry, and/or figurines.

jade jewelry on table for sale

Although the community of Cassiar is now a ghost town, the Cassiar Mountain Jade Store still flourishes. Here, members of the 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow look at various pieces of jade jewelry and trinkets that are available in the store. Free coffee is also offered!

herd of bison standing in field

A herd of 2,000 bison lives in the Liard River area. They can often be seen grazing peacefully along the highway. At this time of year, you might be lucky enough to spot some newborn calves amongst the herd.

liard hotsprings

The Liard River Hot Springs are the second largest natural hot spring in Canada. With waters temperatures at a lovely 36oC, come enjoy a nice soak and relax! Well maintained change rooms and toilets are available for your convenience. The 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow participants can be seen here enjoying the warm waters after a long day of traveling.

The waters of the Liard River Hot Springs are clear, warm, and inviting. So stay a while and enjoy the nature that surrounds you.

Bridge with signs from all over the world on it.

In Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, there is an impressive “Sign Post Forest” that has over 83,000 signs from all over the world! Some signs indicate the name of the traveler who placed the sign and how far they had to journey from their hometown to arrive in Watson Lake. Other signs simply indicate various road or city names from around the globe.

trail with a lot of signs around it

Come take a walk in Watson Lake’s “Sign Post Forest” and see how many different countries you can count. Don’t forget to bring a sign to contribute to the collection!

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Feel like you’re losing your best friend?

Most tobacco users do want to quit and many have tried without success.

The majority of us know that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and increases the risk of heart disease, lung disease, and cancer, and harms every organ of the body. Yet still, over one out of five people in northern B.C. continue to smoke.

A feeling of loss along with the discomfort of nicotine withdrawal and cravings makes it difficult to stop smoking or chewing tobacco.

Many people who smoke or chew tobacco find that it helps them through the tough times of their life – kind of like a friend. They use it to feel better when they feel lonely, anxious, depressed, or even when they’re bored. They may enjoy it socially when they are with friends, or routinely throughout their day.man chopping cigarette with an axe

Tobacco’s effect

The reward centre in the brain is stimulated by nicotine within 10 seconds of inhalation, causing a feeling of well-being, improved mood, and increased attention. These feelings can help deal with the stresses of life. It can help you feel more positive, more in control and reduces hunger. No wonder when someone tries to quit, it feels like they’re giving up a best friend!

Unfortunately, these feelings are soon replaced with the discomfort of withdrawal and the cravings for more tobacco. Some smokers who have used tobacco for a while find that smoking simply relieves withdrawal and no longer is even pleasurable.

If tobacco feels like a friend to you, consider this: would a friend damage your health? Take your money? Risk your life?

Tobacco is the unhealthy relationship that you CAN cut from your life!

The good news is that once you have quit, the withdrawal symptoms and cravings will reduce and you won’t need to smoke to feel good!

Most people do want to quit, and often do for these reasons:

  • Concern about their health.
  • Concern about the cost of smoking or chewing.
  • Concern about the health of the people around them.
  • There are fewer places where they are allowed to smoke.
  • Embarrassment that they use tobacco.

The addiction to smoking is hard to kick, but with a plan that supports and reduces withdrawal, removes the triggers that increase cravings, and helps develop other ways to improve mood, tobacco users can successfully quit!

For free counselling and resources, visit quitnow.ca, call 1-877-455-2233, or text QUITNOW to 654321.

Access to free nicotine patches, gum, lozenges or inhalers are available through the BC Smoking Cessation Program at your local pharmacy. You also may be eligible for assistance to purchase smoking cessation medications.

 

This article was first published in the Winter 2018 issue of Healthier You magazine. Check out the full issue below!

 

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.

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Occupational Therapist on Board: the 2018 Cassiar Travelling Road Show

What do you get when you give thirteen enthusiastic health care students a microphone, a Powerpoint slide, a table of equipment, and four secondary school gymnasiums full of students considering life after high school?

The group with a big sign showing towns.

The answer’s easy – The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow!

On April 29th, 2018, thirteen students and two UNBC staff piled into a roomy, Northern Health Connections bus and headed from Prince George to Smithers. By May 5th, our crew had covered over 2400 kilometers, travelling through Smithers, Dease Lake, Watson Lake, and Fort Nelson, visiting four high schools along the way.Looking out the bus window viewing bison.

As a second-year occupational therapy student at UBC, I am well-versed in the shortage of not only occupational therapists (OTs) in northern and rural communities, but all health care professionals. I’ve seen postings for long-empty positions in rural hospitals and community-based teams, and I’ve met hospital administrators waiting for qualified OT and other health professionals to hit send on an email with cover letter and resume attached.

The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow is a grassroots initiative born of a firm belief in the proven concept: ‘train-and-remain’.The Northern Health Connections bus in a mountainous pass. If a student from a northern, rural community, becomes a health care professional, that student is more likely to return to the north to practice than a student from a major urban centre. The question is – how do eligible ‘train-and-remain’ students learn of all the various, much-needed professions, such as OT?  Well, who better than current health care students to provide interactive demonstrations with equipment and tools, and to share with high schoolers all aboutWoman standing on a mountain. OT standing at display table.the application process, why the career is exciting and rewarding, and what a day in the life of a health care professional looks like? An added bonus to all of this touring, is the health care students learn more about their future colleagues, increasing their capacity for interdisciplinary practice.

I was honoured to share my passion and commitment to OT and challenge students to think of creative uses for adaptive equipment, to consider the amazing rehabilitative neuroplastic powers of the brain, and to engage in discussion about inclusion and even the social model of disability. I asked students if they had any plans for careers after high school, and I heard, “Well, I had thought about being a nurse, but this is pretty cool.” Another student replied, “I have so many ideas now!”

Thank you to everyone who made this week possible; to the creative minds that saw a solution to workforce shortages and made it a reality, to the organizers of the Roadshow, to Northern Health Connections for the wonderful bus, and especially to the students at each high school who asked such thoughtful questions, and showed genuine care for both individual and community health! Thanks for the opportunity to showcase OT!!

 

The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow was conceived as a grass roots initiative to address rural healthcare workforce shortages. It brings together a multidisciplinary group of health-care students from post-secondary institutions around B.C. to showcase career opportunities to rural high school students. Since 2010, the roadshow has connected with more than 8500 students in 43 communities across the province. There are now two roadshows run each spring through the Northern Medical Program, as well as one through the Southern Medical Program (Kelowna).

Catherine Lloyd

About Catherine Lloyd

Catherine is currently finishing her 5th and final placement for the Master of Occupational Therapy program at UBC. She’s split her final fieldwork placement in Prince George between 3NE at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia, and at a role emerging placement at Central Interior Native Health Society. In the spring of 2018, Catherine was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit many remote communities during her placement via the Healthcare Travelling Roadshow, and through an outreach program delivering rehab services in Takla, Nadleh and Stellat’en. Catherine is dedicated to deepening her understanding of how occupational therapy and allied health can answer the Calls to Action that address our healthcare system in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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Foundry: Changing how youth access health and wellness

(Interview with Josh Van Der Meer, Youth Mental Health and Addictions Councillor, Northern Health)

In any successful community, it’s important to take care of all populations, including our youth. That’s why I was so excited to sit down with Josh Van Der Meer, Youth Mental Health and Addictions Councillor, to learn more about a new service in northern BC; Foundry Prince George. This is a place where any youth in the community, or their families, can find quick and easy access to the help they need, when they need it. Foundry transforms how mental health and substance use services are delivered, providing early intervention, in the form of resources, info, and support to youth between the ages of 12 and 24. Van Der Meer helped share some more info with me about this exciting new initiative.

Where/why did the idea of Foundry come from? Were there recognized needs in the community?

Foundry piloted in downtown Vancouver. From its success in the lower mainland, more Foundry’s began to pop up around B.C., and fast forward to fall 2017, Foundry Prince George was established.

Largely, the concept was an effort to fill the obvious gap that had been recognized for mental health services for youth in communities. A young person’s life is always changing, and having a place they can receive mental health support and a variety of other services is important.foundry waiting room with chairs

What’s the most frequently used service at Foundry?

Although we have a variety of services available, our mental health information and services have been the most used – which is awesome. Mental health has been such a taboo subject in the past, and to have young people of all ages and ethnicities come in and talk to our team members… it’s pretty special.

A reason our mental services are so popular is because of their accessibility. If someone walks in through our doors, there’s no scheduling for an appointment later – you’re going to see a mental health professional that day, and probably within a few minutes.

When a person discusses what’s bothering them emotionally, it usually makes for a deep conversation, which in turn gives the support person an opportunity for a rich assessment. This assessment leads to a plan for next steps: whether that’s coming in for another discussion, or directing to resources from other health services.

What does a healthy relationship mean to Foundry, and what does Foundry do to help make this happen (staff approach, mindset, etc.)?

To us at Foundry Prince George, a healthy relationship is when people come together and get the support they need. We have the opportunity here to connect young people to professionals, giving them access to exactly that, including bringing in families as well (if needed and requested). We understand that the mental and physical needs of young people don’t stop at 18 years old, and we can be the gateway to better health and wellness for them as they transition into adulthood.

Services offered at Foundryfront desk of foundry

  • Primary care services (health care)
  • Sexual Health Services
  • Mental Health Information and Services
  • Substance Use Information and Services
  • Family Involvement Worker
  • Groups (to be developed in 2018)
  • Housing Support
  • Employment Information and Support
  • Education Information and Support

What makes Foundry unique or different from similar facilities?

The difference here at Foundry is that youth can get access to a huge variety of health and wellness services all in one place, almost immediately. If we don’t have the particular service the person requires, our staff does they best they can to find out where it is and how the client can get it.

Foundry is also unique in the fact that it’s the product of an awesome group of community partners, and the cooperation between several health and wellness agencies.

Favourite part about Foundry?

My favourite part about working at Foundry is that I’m the first person who gets to help people that come in. When a young person first comes in for mental health services, they’re nervous, they’re not sure, they’re scared sometimes. Opening up and speaking to a mental health professional often takes those feelings away, like a weight off their chest.

When I see that sort of relief on someone’s face at the end of a session, and they’re thankful and relaxed… I know they have left with something. And that’s pretty special.

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The relationship between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and lifelong health: a physician’s perspective

You never know how you’ll come across your next great idea. It could be something seen in passing, an article, or words exchanged between friends. In Dr. Christine Brenckmann’s case, the idea to use the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) questionnaire in her own practice came in the form of a social media post by someone attending the ACEs summit in Vancouver last November.

I had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Dr. Brenckmann in her office to discuss ACEs and her work as a physician.

What made you first interested in family medicine?

My career actually started in public health; I was keen to look at the broader social determinants of health. During my work in the field, I often found myself wondering where I could make a difference the most. That’s how I became interested in family medicine and eventually decided to pursue it. I think of health as a bank account. You have no choice where, or into what circumstances you are born. Some people are born with more in their bank account than others and I think the health care system can help to even out those bank accounts.

What are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and why do they matter?

ACEs is a term given to describe all types of abuse, neglect, and other traumatic experiences that occur to individuals under the age of 18. A study was conducted that showed the number of ACEs suffered by a person in childhood and teen years is powerfully correlated with negative lifelong health outcomes. It’s also highly correlated with social, educational, and employment outcomes.

mom and kids sitting on mountain So how does the ACEs questionnaire work?

It’s a simple questionnaire consisting of 10 questions. Patients tell their doctor their score and it is recorded similarly to measurements like blood pressure.

Is conducting an ACEs questionnaire helpful?

At first I was skeptical of using the ACEs questionnaire in clinical practice. I was worried that we would re-traumatize patients and not have much to offer them. Fortunately, the opposite has been true. Patients appreciate me asking, as it helps me to understand them better. Sometimes when people talk about their ACEs, they often say, “It’s in the past and doesn’t affect me anymore,” or, “I can’t believe this is still affecting me today.” People sometimes aren’t aware that their early experiences have had such a profound and lasting impact on their lives. Some people are not aware that what happened to them was wrong, undeserved, or not “the norm.” Having a questionnaire also helps patients share information about their past without having to talk about it. Trauma-informed care shifts the thinking from “what’s the matter with you?” to “what happened to you?”

There are now more and more tools being developed to help people with a history of trauma, or who have experienced adverse events in their childhood. In short, the questionnaire is a simple way to gather information about the root causes of a problem. (Note: Dr. Brenckmann pointed out that the ACEs questionnaire is not comprehensive as it does not address war, residential school, or refugees.)

Does a history of adversity impact one’s health?

A traumatic past affects how our brain and body develop. It also affects the habits that we develop and how we cope with stresses in our lives. Studies show that as the ACEs score increases, so does the risk for negative health outcomes. A person with more than seven ACEs is likely to die twenty years earlier than a person with no ACEs, which is quite shocking. Fortunately, with support, there are things we can do to change these habits and change our future.

What can be done for those who have experienced ACEs?

People need to know that the things that happened to them are not their fault. We need to be compassionate rather than judgmental, understanding the “why” rather than just the “what.” We discuss what the person’s goals are moving forward and what support they would like from us or from other community resources.

ACEs are often caused by unhealthy relationships. What does a healthy relationship mean to you?

To me, a healthy relationship means three things: mutual respect, compassion, and safety. If you have these things, the rest will follow. Healthy relationships help protect ACEs from happening, and can help us heal from past traumas.

What’s one message you’d like to share with Healthier You readers?

I’d like to share a saying from one of my community health professors, Dr. Don Langille, which has stuck with me. He once said that it all boils down to how we treat each other. Not a single thing is unaffected by relationships. How do we treat those who are alone and traumatized, or who have experienced unhealthy relationships, or ACEs? It all goes back to respect, compassion, and safety.

More info about ACEs and resources to get help

Nadine Burke Harris: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime (TEDMED 2014 video)

ComplexTrauma.ca/aces-complex-trauma/ 

AlbertaFamilyWellness.org/what-we-know/aces

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

A Northerner since childhood, Haylee has grown up in Prince George and recently completed her Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Northern British Columbia. During university Haylee found her passion for health promotion while volunteering heavily with the Canadian Cancer Society and was also involved with the UNBC JDC West team, bringing home gold as part of the Marketing team in 2016. Joining the communications team as an advisor for population and public health has been a dream come true for her. When she is not dreaming up marketing and communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or enjoying a glass of wine with friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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IMAGINE Grant: Teeing off on Toboggan Hill

Formed in early 2016, the Fort St. John Disc Sports Club set out with the goal of bringing the game of disc golf to Fort St. John. With the support of City Council, the club was able to install a temporary 9-hole disc golf course on Toboggan Hill in July 2016; temporary to ensure that the community was on board and that the location for the course was the right one.

Since the installation of the temporary course, the club has seen a rapid increase in interest in disc golf. Over the past year, volunteer club members have donated instruction time and equipment to local schools and organizations to introduce community youth to the sport.

What is disc golf? It’s much like regular golf but uses a disc (Frisbee) instead of a golf ball and clubs. Players throw the disc from the tee area towards the target, which is a basket. Each throw begins at the spot where your last disc throw landed. The goal of the game is to get your disc to the target in the least amount of throws, just like regular golf!

There’s a major difference between disc golf and regular golf, however: cost. Access to the disc golf course in Fort St. John is free and equipment costs are very affordable compared to other sports. Club members note that with the economic downturn of the region, offering a low cost activity where people and families are able to get outside and enjoy nature while being physically active is a benefit for everyone. The Disc Sports Club does offer yearly memberships for $20 that are directed towards club events and activities and to support course maintenance. Membership privileges also include a custom-made bag tag, BC Disc Sports insurance, and voting rights for the club meetings.

Another difference between the two sports is accessibility. Disc golf is a low-impact sport that can be played by people of all ages and abilities. One of the club members is able to enjoy the activity from her motorized scooter!

man throwing disc at bucket

Disc golf is a perfect recreational summer sport!

With seed funding support from a Northern Health IMAGINE Community Grant in the fall of 2016, the FSJ Disc Club was able to purchase permanent baskets for the course. Club president Clint Warkentin shared a funny story about the day they installed the permanent baskets this May:

On the day of our basket installation, we were informed that there was a bear in the same park as us! The bear hung around all day, following us from hole to hole as we installed the baskets. Police were always near us, making sure we were safe. We never had any close encounters, but it was always on our mind. True northerners, risking our lives for the sake of the community!”

The City of Fort St. John has been very supportive of the project and will be partnering with the club to complete the course to include tee pads, tee signs, and course signs. Community members are also pleased to see positive activity taking place at Toboggan Hill, an area that neighborhood residents had felt needed some improvements.

Neighbouring communities are also taking part in the excitement that disc golf is creating for the region.

Having a permanent course is really good for the whole Peace Region,” said Warkentin. “There are now courses in Fort St. John, Dawson Creek and Grande Prairie. The partnership between Dawson Creek Disc Golf Club and our club has really been strengthened and we are continuing to work together as partners (and rivals!).”

IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We look for applicants that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. 

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.

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The community that plays together, stays together

When I sat down to talk with Jennel Harder, recreation director for the Village of Fraser Lake, the vast number and type of recreation activities available in her community became instantly clear.

As we sat on the shores of Fraser Lake – the beautiful blue sky and lakeside benches making an outdoor meeting simply too tempting – all I had to do was turn my head to see a handful of healthy activities. Outdoor exercise equipment, a new playground, a shed for community canoes, a bandstand, and walkers and runners on a trail along the water’s edge. And then I saw Jennel’s list.

Earlier in the week, I had asked what types of activities exist for children, youth, families, and seniors in her community. And there, in her hand, was a sheet of paper covered front and back with a list of activities unlike any I had ever seen for a community of just under 1,000 residents.

“We have the skateboard park, junior golf team, Men’s Shed, downhill biking, music, ball hockey,” started Harder, as I scrambled to write notes – missing what I’m sure were dozens of other recreation opportunities. “Over the summer we offer four major weeklong camps for kids: Xplore Sports, Xplore Arts, Xplore Science, and Xplore Adventure. We have great Family Day events, a provincially competitive carpet bowling team, hiking trails, a Christmas charity hockey game. And our bluegrass festival, the Festival of the Arts, and the show and shine are all popular events.”

parade with brown mouse and grey cat mascot

This is a community that easily becomes home.

Then came Harder’s confession: “As I started to write these down,” she shared, “I didn’t realize how much we have. No one can say we have an inactive town!”

There’s a simple but powerful statement that Harder constantly thinks about when she and the Village of Fraser Lake support these different recreation opportunities: “The community that plays together, stays together.” With this in mind, Harder supports programs that not only appeal to a wide variety of community members but also looks for activities that families can do together, like the Pumpkin Walk, groomed cross-country ski trails, and craft days for children and their parents. “I want to challenge the compartmentalizing of activities: Susie’s soccer and Jimmy’s pottery and dad’s hockey night. I’m always looking for things that families and community members can do together.”

“Fraser Lake is such a great playground,” shared Harder. “And we like to create and support programs that celebrate that outdoor playground! We have 170 lakes within a 50 km radius of our town. I want to challenge the trend towards screens. Sitting in front of screens takes its toll. More and more, people seem to be pulling straight into their garages and then hiding out in their homes. Having avenues to reach out and connect is what makes communities like Fraser Lake last.”

According to Harder, the Village of Fraser Lake has a dual role here: they both create recreation opportunities and they serve as a hub to let people know what is happening in town.

When exploring new opportunities, Harder is open to trying anything once! “Our programs respond to local needs,” said Harder. “We keep it simple but that lets me be responsive. We had some local seniors ask about adding pickleball lines to our facilities, for example. I looked into the sport, looked at opportunities to partner with community members to offer it, and now we have pickleball nets and lines being set up soon!”

When it comes to being a hub, Harder’s role is to connect with local organizations and make sure that others know about their recreation opportunities. In these cases, the Village of Fraser Lake might advertise the program or event, work with local service providers, provide space, support grant applications, and more. “Anything that helps the program be successful is the Village’s responsibility,” shared Harder. A few examples of this support include karate offered locally by a private instructor, the Fraser Lake Saddle Club and its local gymkhanas, Autumn Services (a seniors’ drop-in centre), and the Fraser Lake indoor playground – a new activity held at the local arena thanks to funding from Northern Health.

As Harder continued to list programs during our conversation – the Outdoor Adventure Klub (OAK), crib night, mud bogs, the splash park, the daffodil tea – she paused for a moment. “The best part of town,” she said, “is the people. These programs wouldn’t exist without the people.” Whether it’s the families who take part in craft days or the local fusion glass artists who volunteer their time to teach a course, Fraser Lake comes together around recreation.

“For me,” said Harder, “a healthy Fraser Lake is a community that is active, involved, and engaged. This can take work, but it’s happening here. I think that we’ve able to achieve this because we keep it simple and have gone back to basics – just getting people together and offering a range of activities. We keep things affordable and accessible here, and that brings neighbours together.”

“This is a community that easily becomes home,” said Harder. “Remember: the community that plays together, stays together.”

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Presence: the most prized gift of all

December can be a wonderful time of the year. Getting together with family, friends, and coworkers; celebrating with music, food, decorations, and traditions. It seems as though we look forward to it all year.

Standing beside a huge snowbank.

I’m not sure if I could have shoveled all of this on my own!

About nine years ago, in the middle of December, my husband and I first arrived in northern BC. It was an exciting time (-35 degree temperatures aside): moving across the country and starting a new journey, but also one of the more lonely times in my life. I had left behind all family, friends, and familiarity, at quite possibly the worst time of year to do so. What I remember most about those first couple of months is the people who reached out to us, welcomed us into their homes and celebrations, shared meals and laughs with us, and helped us shovel our driveway when the snow was too deep to drive through. I did not yet know that those people would become some of our cherished friends – our chosen family.

However joyful and pleasant the holidays are, they can also be exhausting, stressful, lonely, and financially draining. Strained relationships, distant family, and absent support systems are even more impactful at this time of year.

No matter our perspective, we all have opportunity to be mindful and respectful of our own (and others’) thoughts and feelings about the holidays, and to honour what truly brings us peace and joy.

It’s too easy to get caught up in the fast pace and expectations of the season, when what should matter most is spending time with each other and recognizing those who make our days brighter.

The best memories are not of physical gifts received, but of time spent together with others. Instead of presents, this year give PRESENCE. Here are some ideas:

  • Reach out to that new face in town or at work and introduce yourself.

    Snowman standing beside woman

    Unplugging and heading outside can have some amazing results!

  • Take the time to reconnect with family/friends – call, write a letter, or make plans to meet and take a walk.
  • Volunteer your time – there are endless opportunities in every community to give back with your time, share your skills and your wisdom with an organization and help brighten someone’s day.
  • Unplug: spend quality time with your children/spouse/friends away from screens. Read a book, play board games, visit the library, play outside, or plan an evening walk to look at the festive lights on display.
  • Take time for self-care. Spend quality time doing things you enjoy, things that make you feel good, and tending to your own mental health.
  • Make and share a meal with someone.

What are some ways that you’ve given presence over presents during the holidays? Need some more ideas? Check out this Kindness

Calendar from actionforhappiness.org.

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.

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