BIST’s summer fun + water safety reminder

Nothing beats hanging out by the water during hot, lazy summer days.

young family sitting in a lake

It’s easy to feel free and relaxed. And you should.

But it’s also important to remember the hard facts, that more people die from drowning in Ontario than anywhere else in Canada. Certain groups are at increased risk, especially two to four-year-olds, adults 60 and over, people who have lived in Canada for five years or less and men 18 to 49-years-old.

As most people connected with BIST know, surviving a near-drowning doesn’t guarantee things will be easy from then on. Brain damage can occur after the body has been deprived of oxygen for four to five minutes, which makes water safety a crucial component of summer-fun.

Here are some tips to remember when you’re out:

  • Two to four-year-olds are the highest risk group for drowning in the under-five age bracket, and these drownings usually occur near the water. The problem: curious little ones fall into water (such as an outdoor pool) they’ve wandered into in the brief moments their parents aren’t looking. Adults aren’t paying attention, because no one is actually swimming, they’re just near the water. Lack of adult supervision is the biggest risk factor that leads to young children drowning.
  • Young and mid-life men are at increased risk of drowning, particularly due to these at-risk behaviours: consuming alcohol while out in the water, not using a PFD (personal flotation device) when boating, going out in cold, rough waters and being out after dark. Another risk factor: going out on the water alone.
people swimming in an outdoor pool
  • New Canadians, especially folks who have been in the country for five years or less are four times more likely to be unable to swim than people born in Canada. Meanwhile, most people in this group consider swimming to be a very safe activity for themselves and their children.
  • Older adults can be at-risk of drowning if they suffer a medical condition while in the water, such as a heart attack. They may also be at risk if they do not modify activities they did when they were younger,  such as swimming across a small lake, that they’re no longer able to do. At the same time, not wearing a PFD, consuming alcohol while out on the water and going out alone are all risk factors which lead to drowning.
man and girl in a boat wearing life jackets

It’s important to reminder that drowning is a quiet, hard-to-notice event.

A young child can silently slip under the water in the bath, something a parent in another room wouldn’t notice. And most drowning victims can’t call out for help.

This video shows someone drowning in a crowded swimming area, while no one but the lifeguard notices:

 Here’s how to stay safe:

  • Watch kids all the time – especially when you’re near water but not necessarily swimming. That means if there’s a party at the beach or a pool, someone should be ‘assigned’ to watch the young children at all times. Take shifts, so everyone can have grown up fun and keep the kids safe.
  • Don’t swim or boat alone.
  • Wear a life jacket every time you’re in a boat.
  • If you’ve consumed drugs or alcohol, don’t go in the water.
  • Little kids who are not strong swimmers should wear PDFs.
  • Kids under five should not be further away than an arm’s reach from an adult.

Learn how to swim!

Learning how to swim is one of the best things you can do to keep you and your family safe in the water. Free or low-cost lessons are available from the City of Toronto – including lessons for adults. So dive in (safely) and have fun!

Sources: Life Saving Society + Ontario Medical Association


Your BIST guide to World Pride!

gay pride parade rainbow banner

World Pride has hit Toronto!

Thinking of going to Pride? Here’s the BIST low-down on what’s happening at Pride, with a highlight on some events we think may be more ABI survivor friendly:

Clean and Sober Proud Place – Friday, Saturday and Sunday

WHAT IS IT: A space to hang out and catch performances by local community artists in a drug and alcohol free space.

  • Paul Kane Parkette, 58 Wellelsey St. East (just east of Yonge St.)


 What it Means to Be Seen – Photo Exhibit – Friday, Saturday and Sunday

WHAT IS IT: A photo exhibit featuring LGBTQ communities from the 1960s to present. See how much things have changed and stayed the same.

  • Ryerson Image Centre, 33 Gould St. (south of Gerrard, east of Yonge St.)


Family Pride – Saturday and Sunday

WHAT IS IT: Just as it sounds – a family-centred Pride celebration! Set up in the Church Street Public School, Family Pride provides tons of free activities for kids, plus gives parents an opportunity to chill and relax in the quietest, and least crowded space on Church Street. BONUS: FREE DRINKS AND SNACKS AVAILABLE!

  • Church St. Public School, 83 Alexander St. (1 block North of Carlton, just east of Church)




UFCW Canada Pride – Saturday, starts at 10 a.m.

WHAT IS IT: The United Food and Commercial Worker union (UFCW) is hosting a Pride celebration for its members, their friends, family  and basically any community-oriented person who wants to indulge in the spirit of Pride. There will be refreshments, snacks, music, arts and cultural activities.

  • Sheraton Centre Hotel, Civic Ballroom and Foyer, 123 Queen Street West (west of Bay St.)
  • If you’re planning on going, you’re encouraged to sign up here


Proud Voices – Saturday, Sunday, starts 11 a.m. – readings and performances throughout the day

WHAT IS IT: Listen to readings by some of Toronto’s best LGBTTQ writers. Saturday  features readings by established Toronto women writers, and Sunday it’s the men’s turn. 

  • Glay Day Bookshop, 598 Yonge St. (just North of Wellesley)


BIST TIP: Getting to Pride from east of Church St. is a lot easier than coming from the west end. But regardless of where you’re coming from – expect crowds. Don’t drive. If you can, walk bike or take the TTC!

  • Avoid Wellesley Station and the surronding area. You will find taking a longer way around to where your going will take less time than managing your way through the crowds.
  • There will be fewer crowds at: Sherbourne Station, Yonge / Bloor station, College Station or Dundas Station – again, it’s worth walk!

For more information: World Pride Toronto


Community Meeting Round-up: learning how to ‘shake out’ stress

Imagine being at a BIST community meeting where everyone is quiet. You can hear the sound of your breath, and the inhales and exhales of the person sitting next to you. You hear noises in the hall, ambient sounds you haven’t paid attention to before. You notice the sensation of your legs on the chair and your feet on the floor.


Maybe you’re feeling more relaxed. Maybe you’re more stressed, annoyed with the exercise. Or maybe you feel nothing at all. But you notice. You are aware.

This is a guided meditation.

BIST’s community meeting in June, Keeping your cool in Turbulent Times: Strategies for Relaxation, was presented by Michele Meehan, a pyschotherapist and shamanic practioner, who also happens to be the former director of community facilitation at BIST. Talking about stress and what we can do about it, Michele facilitated discussions with BIST members about the following:

  • What are your stressors?

  • How do you know when you’re stressed?

  • Is stress always bad?

  • What is good stress?

  • How can we tell when there is ‘too much’ stress?


Michele shared that ‘good stress’ can be a motivator. A small amount of stress during a friendly sports game, for example, can help us strive to play our best.

We also talked about how our reactions to stress can put us in a loop. Critical self-talk or bad habits we fall into when we are stressed can be more stressful than what was inititally causing the stress (such as running late for an appointment, and then ‘beating ourselves up’ about it.)

Members discussed what happens to our bodies when we are stressed (such as neck tension or cramping) and we learned that noticing what’s happening in our bodies can be the first ‘clue’ that we are stressed out.

Michele shared her tip of ‘shaking out’ stress, which is, just as it sounds, physically shaking out your body. This is something you can do in the privacy of your own home, even hours after a stressful event, since it can take up to a week for your body to metabolize an adrenaline hit from extreme stress. Shaking out stress is a trick learned from animals. After a ‘flight or fright’ response, when an animal is safe, they shake.

Here are some other tips from Michele:

The 4-As of dealing with stress:

  • Avoid stress – if a particular person is stressing you out, can you avoid them?
  • Alter the situation – if the behaviour of a particular person is stressing you out (if, for example, they talk a lot) can you ask them to be more quiet?
  • Adapt – if rush hour is stressful, and you can’t avoid your rush hour commute can you adapt it to make it more pleasant (for example, play music)
  • Accept – some stress is un-avoidable. If you can accept that it is happening (for example, that you need to travel during rush hour, and you will most likely be stuck in traffic) you may find it less stressful. “Arguing with reality is a sure way to make you crazy,” Michele says.

I can do it-1

About meditation:

  • There are many ways to meditate. The trick is to find the practise that’s right for you.
  • A 20-minute meditation can be as restorative as a two-hour nap.
  • The brain does what it does, and if your mind starts to wander during a meditation, that’s ok.
  • Having said that, we can train our brains to try and focus on the present as much as possible.
  • You can meditate with your eyes open and focus on an image, a candle flame, a word, a chant or a mantra that’s meaningul to you.


  • You can watch an example of a guided meditation below or find more examples here
  • You can find examples of breathing exercises here
  • You can find  a list of mindfulness programs in Toronto here
  • The NeuroNova Centre for Mindfulness specializes in mindfulness for people with chronic pain

Celebrate summer + BIST’s 10th anniversary!

July 28th, 6 – 8 p.m.

Dinner, karaoke and a performance by Cougar Bait



Community meeting round-up: exercise after brain injury


We all know exercise is good for us, and at BIST’s community meeting in May, Dr. Melvine Baird from Rehab Results gave helpful tips on keeping our bodies healthy and active after a brain injury.

Aside from the physical perks, Dr. Baird says exercise offers many cognitive benefits such as increased cognitive flexibility (the ability to switch between two different concepts), memory and processing speed.

Here’s what Dr. Baird recommends:

  • find a friend or family member to exercise with so you keep each other motivated
  • start a new routine slowly and gradually increase what you’re doing
  • drink lots of water and stay hydrated!
  • take breaks and don’t push yourself to the point of fatigue

Exercises you can do at home:


Superman stretch


  • Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended.
  • Lift your arms and legs at the same time towards the ceiling, in an elongated ‘u’ shape.
  • Try to lift several inches from the floor, holding for two to five seconds.



wall push-ups


  • Stand about 3 feet in front of a wall with your hands outstretched.
  • Push your body back with your hands until you’re back in a standing position.
  • Repeat; stop before you begin to feel pain or fatigue in your upper body.




wall squat


  • With your feet shoulder-width apart, stand with your head and back against the wall. Keep your arms at your sides.
  • Lower your body into a squat position so that your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Hold for five to 10 seconds, breathing normally.



Other resources Dr. Baird recommends are joining a walking group, taking up Nordic pole walking, swimming at a community centre or TheraBands exercises.

The next BIST community meeting will be on June 23, 6 – 8 p.m.


** Please note the date of the Annual General Meeting has been moved to Sept. 22 **