ARS Vision 2020: “Healthy Mind, Healthy Body” Organized by ARS Roubina Chapter

ARS Vision 2020 organizing committee and guests.

On September 15th, 2019, the ARS Roubina Chapter presented another successful event as part of the ARS Vision 2020 fundraising event at the Bayview Golf and Country Club. There was a meet and greet with the presenters of the afternoon at the beginning of the event.

Attendees had the option to purchase raffle tickets to enter the lottery for 19 unique prizes that included gift baskets put together by the event sponsor Rexall, Alex and Ani bangles, a Four Seasons Hotel gift card, Wine baskets, and many more. There was also an auction that offered NBA champion Toronto Raptors tickets, an elliptical donated by Vatche Proudian of the Treadmill Factory and an oil painting donated by Hamazkayin, by artist Garen Bedrossian.

All this while anticipating the presentations by three health professionals, who would be sharing their knowledge and research to educate and enlighten all those in attendance about our health and how to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.

MC Nathalie Gokchenian set a comfortable tone for the afternoon, as she was able to get the crowd engaged and laughing with her welcoming remarks and introduction of the keynote speakers.

The first guest the attendees heard from was Rita Alekian, a registered Clinical and School Psychologist with the College of Psychologists of Ontario. For the past 16 years, Rita has been a lead psychologist at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. She provides assessment and treatment for individuals with anxiety, depression, autism, attention, behavior and learning difficulties. Rita is also a Clinical Director of her private practice where she works collaboratively with families to provide psychological services to children and adolescents in the greater Toronto area. Her research and knowledge have led her to publishing a multitude of articles and guest lecturing at her alma mater York University, Niagara University, and the University of Waterloo.

Rita spoke on mental health, which has been a sensitive topic to the mass public. She acknowledged the stigma and fear around talking about mental health and mental wellness to begin her speech. She shared that 1 in 5 Canadians will experience mental health in their lifetime. The most common diagnosis is anxiety. One could experience this while thinking about their future, their health, a social gathering they have to attend or even flying in a plane. She then shared that 1/6 of Canadians suffer from depression, and this is very underreported for men, as there is a stigma that men have to be strong all the time, and do not get sad or stressed out. Rita also gave the alarming statistic that only 36% of the population seeks help. In her own words, “mental health equals mental wealth.” She compared a person to an iceberg, “we all only see the top tip, but under the water, under the surface, there is so much more to explore and unpack that we cannot see.” Taking care of our mental health and seeking help is beneficial to our whole being.

Rita also compared people to cell phones: the same way everyone plugs in their phone to charge at night, people must do the same themselves. Rita suggested building a toolbox that addresses the stressors in our lives, which contain four pillars: physical, social, emotional and cognitive.

“We can change our thoughts and actions to promote and enhance our mental health and wellness,” was Rita’s final tip and strategy for those in attendance. She encouraged everyone to “dance in the rain, don’t just wait for the rain to pass,” meaning not to expect life to be free of hard times, but rather we have to work hard to try to strengthen the pillars of our mental health to better weather the challenges and difficult moments in life, and promote our mental wellbeing.

Tamara Kansabedian, a Registered Dietitian for the past 14 years took the stage next to address the crowd. She began her career working clinically for ten years at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, specializing in head and neck healing, and was co-investigator in several research papers. Now, she is a professor at her alma mater Ryerson University in the Nutrition and Food program and manages the Internationally Educated Professionals in Nutrition program with the faculty.

Tamara began her educational talk with some nutritional facts we have all been told and read before, such as, butter is bad and consuming bacon will kill you. She let us know that nutrition is a fairly new study, and lots of nutritional facts the general public knows are incorrect and come from wrong places. Certain food facts and messages we come across on Instagram and hear via word-of-mouth can be misguided, and simply crazy.

She garnered some laughs, sighs, and nods in agreement when she talked about on-again, off-again diets. “Cheating on a diet is silly and causes anxiety,” Tamara got straight to the point, “if you’re cheating on your diet, you need to find a new one.”

Releasing tension amongst the crowd was easy when Tamara brought up the 80/20 rule when eating. For 80% of the year, eat healthy, avoid processed foods and get the nutrients one needs to function. The remaining 20% can be when you have your extra turkey and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, for example. It is not easy to be perfect all the time, and we do not have to be. “It’s about consistency, not perfection,” as Tamara said. “This will help alleviate some anxiety.”

The final speaker to grace the stage was Dr. Rupert Abdalian, who is a staff clinician and division chief of gastroenterology at North York General Hospital. At the hospital, he teaches endoscopy to the surgical and gastroenterology residents and partakes of Endoscopy quality improvement initiatives. Dr. Abdalian is also a lecturer within the Department of Medicine and an Adjunct Lecturer in the Department of General Surgery at the University of Toronto. His presentation for Vision2020 was extra special for him, as it was his first time presenting with his wife in the audience.

Dr. Abdalian educated the audience maintaining the same theme as Tamara, that paying attention to our day-to-day diet and lifestyle will help reduce digestive and cognitive health symptoms.

He proposed the question: “What do we do that leads to poor digestion, and how can we fix it?” Tips included stop eating so late as this can build up acid reflex, throat ulcers, and chest pain. Eating too fast, which causes bloating. He also added that chewing gum can lead to chronic bloating. Drinking pop can lead to diabetes, and individuals that drink two or more cans of soda a day raise their mortality rate by 21%. Fiber is also good for one’s mental health, and to be careful when taking antibiotics, because when you are exposed to it, you are killing healthy gut micro bacteria.

Dr. Abdalian told the crowd that colon cancer is the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Ontario. “It is sad,” he said, “because it is fully preventable by having timely screenings.” A tip he shared was that red meat is a Class 1 carcinogen that leads to colon cancer.

Arpi Babikian, the event chairperson thanked the speakers and presented each with a signature plate made by Michael Aram specifically for the ARS Vision 2020 initiative.

Arda Shahinian, Chairperson of the ARS Roubina Chapter spoke about the importance of ARS and all its initiatives. She thanked everyone for attending and supporting such a great cause.

There was over $6000 in generous donations and sponsors for this event. A special thank you goes out to the committee members Arpi Babikian, Nathalie Gokchenian, Arpi Ajamian, Keghouhie Bastajian, Maral Hasserjian, Zaroug Hasserjian, Ida Kansabedian, Tamara Kansabedian, Natalie Manoukian, Suzanne Keoshkerian, Tamar Matossian, Teny Movel, Maria Tourian, Roubina Shnorhokian Yeghoyan, Varsenig Sarkissian and Nairy Shahinian. Without these women, educational, enlightening and inspiring events such as Healthy Mind…Healthy Body would not be possible.

L-R: Tamara Kanzabedian, Rita Alekian, Dr Rupert Abdalian