By Mike Hajmasy
There’s something to be said about the
therapeutic nature of water. It can be a calm and humbling presence; a
place to focus on the task at hand. Lifeguards at the CAMH pool know
this better than most, and recently took the initiative to organize a
‘learn to swim’ group for clients enrolled in the ENCORE (Engaging
Consumers in Opportunities for Recovery Education) program.
the summer, we received a lot of feedback and interest from clients
using the pool who wanted to improve their swimming skills beyond what
they knew from casual swims,” explains CAMH lifeguard Jeremy Gignac.
“We didn’t have a time slot in our activity schedule dedicated to
anything like this, so we teamed up with ENCORE to make it happen.”
lifeguards, including Naomi Hazlett (left) and Jeremy Gignac (right)
teamed up with RT Pamela Maddock and ENCORE to design the ‘learn to
swim’ group at the CAMH pool. The pool is just next to the Wellness
Centre in the Queen Street Community Centre.
Jeremy, alongside fellow lifeguards Naomi Hazlett and Mathew Neeson
mapped out a 10-week program, taking place weekly on Fridays for
clients to come and work on a swimming skill of their choosing.
anyone isn’t sure what they want to work on at first, we help them by
making suggestions,” says Naomi. “There are stages to swimming, so for
some it’s about getting comfortable in the water, for others it’s about
learning to float or swim the length of the pool. We center the lessons
around the goals of the client.”
READ MORE: ENCORE programming a hit with CAMH clients
lifeguards act as coaches, meeting clients wherever they are in terms
of skill. “And if they prefer to work independently, we have
pre-designed exercises and routines printed out on waterproof cards for
clients to take into the pool with them,” Jeremy adds. “Sometimes it’s
just about having someone else in the water with them for reassurance.”
Pre-designed exercises are a good way to guide time in the pool.
has proven to be just the right fit for ENCORE, which offers a
semester-based curriculum of workshops and activities designed around
education, skill building, peer support, self-management, recreation,
and family and career support to clients in the Complex Mental Illness
“We’re fortunate to have a pool here and I think it’s
really special that our lifeguards have taken the initiative to make it a
part of recovery for our clients,” says Pamela Maddock, Recreational Therapist with ENCORE. “What’s even better is that they’re so great with everyone they work with.”
backgrounds in Behavioural Science, Occupational Therapy and
Recreational Therapy respectively, Jeremy, Naomi and Mathew bring the
right approach to engaging with CAMH clients at the poolside.
something really unifying about water,” Jeremy says. “Barriers and
labels are left at the door. People are here to get lost in the
enjoyment of the pool and to work on their goals. And we’re here to
The feedback following the first semester of the ‘learn to
swim’ group has been overwhelmingly positive from both staff members and
“When I started here I couldn’t even put my
face in the water – it scared me,” says one client who recently
completed all 10 weeks of lessons. “Now I’m doing the front crawl for
the first time in my life and it feels really good to have accomplished
that for myself.
“It’s about conquering fear. If I can do this, I can take on the next challenge.”