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Local alternative mental health organization says maintaining communities is crucial

Being able to bring people together safely for outdoor exercise and online support groups have made a real difference during the pandemic, says Strong Minds CEO
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Amanda Lambert. Supplied photo

If there is one thing coronavirus has taught us, it’s the power of community. In Sault Ste. Marie, the Strong Minds organization says it is finding a way to unite people despite the pandemic. 

While Strong Minds’ mandate is to deliver mental health services that work as alternatives to prescription medication — specifically exercise and wellness programs — the “Covid times” has had CEO Amanda Lambert reaching out to the community at large.

“If you are out there and needing help or services — or you are struggling — I urge you to reach out. It’s okay not to be okay and to ask for support. Simply joining one of our free groups is a good start.” 

Lambert, a registered health and exercise practitioner, continues work with specific clients through Zoom meetings, but has also begun organizing outdoor fitness classes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at noon at Clergue Park three times a week. There is a $10 fee to join these classes.

“They’ve been happening since June 17 and it’s great to get out of your house and stay active,” says Lambert. “At the same time, you are getting to see a community ‘in real life’ while maintaining social distancing.” 

While gyms, such as the YMCA, are slowly beginning to reopen, small classes are being introduced first.

However, experts say the risk for infection indoors can be higher than outside. “That’s the real advantage for outdoor groups,” says Lambert. “Because they happen in a park setting, there is no real cap in terms of numbers [within the 100-person gathering regulations] – and there’s just less risk generally.” 

Strong Minds is also offering Community Support Groups and Wellness Chats — which anyone is able to join, for free.

“These are online offerings to fill in the gaps,” explains Lambert. “There aren’t many services available to people, especially during COVID. If you are someone who does struggle with mental health, please reach out and join our community!”

Lambert speaks highly of support groups because “we want to offer more resources for our community – pandemic or no pandemic.” 

Community Support Groups work like an open forum or, as Lambert explains “a meeting place where ideas and views can be shared . . . an opportunity for a group of people with common experiences to provide encouragement, comfort and advice to each other.”

The groups have been shown to reduce distress, depression, anxiety, and even fatigue in her clients.