May 1, 2023 marks the start of Mental Health Week in Canada, as well as our month of focus on Aleks’ Promise. In 2021, Cobequid Animal Hospital team member Aleksander Kristensen lost his battle with depression. To honour his memory, VetStrategy launched Aleks’ Promise, a national program to address mental health and limit stressors impacting animal health professionals.

This month brings a renewed commitment to Aleks’ Promise with new resources for our clinics. This year, we encouraged our teammates to get involved in a variety of ways.

Wildflower seeds: Exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, and an increase in empathy and cooperation. Our teams were sent seeds they used to plant a beautiful garden outdoors in memory of Aleks. The seeds could also be planted in a pot if they did not have access to outdoor space at the clinic.
Mental Health First Aid Training: We will be supporting the training of more than 20 team members from clinics across Canada in Mental Health First Aid. We will be selecting team members from across Canada in both general practice and emergency hospitals to receive this training.

Why is gardening so good for our health?

Nature has long been known for its relaxing qualities, a place where we can find tranquillity and healing. Gardening is associated with mental clarity and feelings of reward; it has many physical benefits as well.
It combines physical activity, social interaction (or quiet solitude), personal satisfaction (especially when we see the fruits of our labour), and exposure to natural light. 

  • Sunlight lowers blood pressure and helps increase vitamin D levels in the summer. 
  • Learning the ins and outs of gardening, eating fruits and vegetables, and taking care of flowers give a feeling of reward and make a positive impact on people’s diets. It increases fruit and vegetable consumption through each harvest; even more health benefits can be seen when pesticide-free fertilizers are used.
  • Working in the garden restores dexterity and strength; the aerobic exercise involved can easily burn the same number of calories as a gym session.
  • Social interaction provided by communal and therapeutic gardening help to improve the quality of life of those who suffer from social isolation.
  • On the other hand, those who garden alone experience positive effects such as a sense of security. The garden can be a protected place where we practice being present where we are and focusing completely on what we are doing at the moment. It can help facilitate mindfulness and meditation.  

Ultimately, gardening can be an added source of purpose and gratification in our everyday life. Whether it’s the size of one pot or one acre, your garden will reap many benefits for yourself and those around you.

More Steps to Take 

Talking about mental health makes a difference all year round! We encourage our clinics and Home Office teams to include wellness as a standing agenda item in their meetings. They were given mental health and well-being pocketbook sleeves placed in areas team members can access. We also asked them to display their Aleks’ Promise poster with pride in a public location in their hospital. 

To mark this important occasion, VetStrategy made a donation in Aleks’ memory to the Canadian Mental Health Association Halifax-Dartmouth Branch.

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