New Hampshire's Statewide Fitness Program for People with Mental Illness

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In 2003, Craig Carey, 47, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  As was reported in a article, he became one of the first members of a new fitness program called In SHAPE. Now, years later, In SHAPE, which stands for “Self Help Action Plan for Empowerment,” is so successful that New Hampshire just won $10 million in federal grants to replicate the program in the rest of NH’s community mental health centers.

Not only is this program beneficial on a personal and psychological level, but it is also good for one’s finances. Dr. Stephen Bartels, director of Dartmouth College’s Centers for Health and Aging explains: “Spending money on wellness efforts now will be less costly than expensive treatments for chronic diseases later.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites that a 10 percent weight loss can reduce a person’s lifetime medical costs by as much as $5,300 by lowering the costs associated with high blood pressure and cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Diane Croteau, 49, has said that the confidence she’s gained in the program has helped alleviate the symptoms of her depression and improve her overall health. In her experience, the health mentors she’s worked with “know how to strike a balance between being supportive and challenging. If a participant isn’t feeling up to going to the gym, mentors will go to their homes and take them out for walks. If someone is dealing with a medical issue, the mentors help contact doctors.”

The program aims to expand its reach from 150 participants to 4,500 participants over the next five years. New Hampshire’s planned expansion is the first example of such a program being implemented statewide.


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