Small business fundraiser brings community together to support mental health program at St. Paul’s
At 19, Natasha Lowe was a social drinker. She smoked cigarettes. She also smoked pot. Nothing that unusual here, especially in this age range of experimentation.
But at the age of 25, Natasha did something that those who knew her might have found, well, unusual. She sought professional help for her substance use, and for the mental health issues she suspected were beneath it.
None of Natasha’s friends, however, would ever have suspected she had a problem.
“As a young person, you don’t really put all the pieces together as to why you’re not feeling great, or why sometimes you feel depressed or experience anxiety,” says Natasha, now 35 and owner of Cadence Cycling Studio, a fitness centre in Vancouver. “Substances are an easy fix for avoiding those issues you don’t want to deal with.”
Left untreated, even “minor issues” can be harmful
When many of us think “mental illness” we may not think of the bouts of anxiety or depression that Natasha and so many of us will experience at various points in our lives. The same can be true of addiction, which we tend to associate with harder substances like cocaine or heroin and not, as in Natasha’s case, with pot or tobacco.
But even though Natasha’s situation may not have involved severe illness or harder substances, she knew the issues she had were harming her, and she came to the realization that she might need help to address them.
“These issues were not destroying my life,” says Natasha, who had always worked and supported herself in those years, “but they were getting in the way of my life. They were blocking me from moving forward in life. They were preventing me from reaching my potential. So yes, if you let that happen, no matter your issue, that can be harmful. For me, realizing this was enough to make me reach out for help.”
Help for Natasha came in the form of an experimental program at the Vancouver Detox Centre that entailed holistic healing, acupuncture and energy healing, a program that, within weeks, Natasha says “changed my life.”
Soon afterward, when working for a forward-thinking company that encouraged its employees to attend fitness or yoga classes during the work day, Natasha rediscovered her love of physical fitness, including its many mental health benefits.
For Natasha, the journey from that initial point of recovery to her life today is something of a blur, a blur of positivity, forward motion and helping others.
A relationship with St. Paul’s blossoms
Cadence Cycling Studio is one of the first fitness centres in Vancouver to focus on the recent popularity of spinning, a form of exercise that uses stationary (or elliptical) bicycles for a unique (and undeniably fun!) rhythm-based cardio workout.
Erin Kille, a surgical nurse at St. Paul’s and also a longtime spinning instructor at Cadence, would often bring colleagues from St. Paul’s to Cadence to give spinning a try, including, on one occasion, her surgical unit at St. Paul’s, which descended on Cadence one recent Saturday for a workout. Erin donated her time to instruct the class and her colleagues were all asked to make a donation to support mental health and substance use programs at St. Paul’s.
Erin’s sister, Julie, who also works at St. Paul’s (in the Department of Medicine) is also a fan of spinning, as is Blaine Bray, who is the Operations Leader with the St. Paul’s Urban Health, Mental Health & Substance Use program.
Says Natasha: “As I got to know Blaine, and as we shared our personal stories with each other, I let him know that I was interested in supporting the mental health and substance use programs at St. Paul’s. One of the first things Blaine suggested was to have mental health patients come to Cadence for some exercise, as a part of their treatment. I got really excited by that because I loved the idea of providing a mental health tool for people, with that tool being our cycling studio.”
We are here to help!
Natasha (and yes, lots of spinning regulars from St. Paul’s!) plan to stage more fundraisers at Cadence in the future—and they would love nothing more than to hear that they have inspired others to do the same!
So please know that, just like the caring staff (and clients!) at Cadence, you, too, can be a hero! For information and ideas on how to stage your own fundraiser for St. Paul’s, visit the “Ways to Give” section of the St. Paul’s Foundation website.
You can also make a donation to St. Paul’s any time by clicking the DONATE NOW button below.