A new youth mental wellbeing program that provides free access to exercise sessions and new support networks was launched in Penrith today.
YMCA Uplift is a partnership between YMCA NSW and Bendigo Bank, targeting 12 to 25 year olds who have mental health issues or are experiencing stress due to studies, friends or family.
Informed by research that shows a strong link between physical activity and mental wellbeing, the eight-week early intervention program provides participants with up to two facilitated group sessions per week.
The young people are exposed to a variety of exercise types including boxing, sports/games and yoga and have unlimited access to YMCA Penrith where the program is initially being trialled (or Teen Gym if under age 16). There will also be support and education offered on topics including exercising safely and nutrition.
According to recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data, mental illness is more prevalent among 18-24 year olds than any other age group in our society. More than a quarter of Australians aged 12-24 have reported experiencing mental health challenges in the previous 12 months.
YMCA NSW CEO Susannah Le Bron said she found the situation incredibly alarming – not only as the leader of an organisation that strives to empower young people but also as the mother of teenagers.
“Governments, organisations and individuals – we all have a role to play in addressing the crisis of youth mental health,” Ms Le Bron told the launch event audience.
“YMCA Uplift is a powerful program as an overwhelming amount of research tells us that physical activity reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety, increases self-esteem and has benefits that extend to improved cognitive function and social health. Exercise in groups is also proven to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.”
GPs, psychologists and mental health support organisations can refer young people to the program but referrals can also come from someone who knows the young person well and can support them in their commitment. This could be a teacher, counsellor, parent/guardian or youth worker. The program is overseen by staff with social work and psychology degrees and fitness instructors are trained in mental health first aid.
Bendigo Bank NSW/ACT State Manager Kylie Douglass said it was exciting to partner with another organisation with community firmly at its heart, on such an important initiative.
“If we can reach just a portion of young people experiencing mental health issues or other major challenges in their lives – and give them the opportunity to improve their physical and mental wellbeing and social engagement – we’re making a wonderful start,” said Ms Douglass, who also spoke at the event, along with Youth Action CEO Katie Acheson.
“We hope our collaboration with YMCA NSW on the Uplift Program in Penrith is the beginning of a longer-term relationship that will see us share the benefits of Uplift across the state.
“We want to see hundreds of young people box, bounce, stretch, run, talk, lunge and hopefully laugh their way to a slightly better day and a more positive future.”
At the conclusion of the eight-week program, discounted YMCA NSW Recreation Centre membership will be offered to participants to encourage ongoing physical exercise.
Louisa McKay, YMCA NSW Executive Leader Community Services, said a YMCA Recreation Centre was the perfect place to deliver a youth mental wellbeing program because it was a safe, welcoming and non-stigmatized space where young people could build positive social connections, exercise and get linked to other services for further support f required.
“Along with current research informing the development of this program, young people were engaged, consulted and worked with YMCA NSW to develop Uplift,” Ms McKay said. “This is incredibly important to us because listening to and working in partnership with young people contributes to achieving positive outcomes.”
For referrals to the program, please visit our website: ymcansw.org.au/ymca-uplift/
or contact m: 0409 184 833 p 02 9633 8251 e email@example.com
Communications Manager | YMCA NSW
M: 0428 511 040
About YMCA NSW
YMCA NSW is a profit-for-purpose organisation focused on healthy living, social impact and empowering young people. We operate 22 recreation centres, 63 Out of School Hours Care services and two camping locations which fund our diverse range of community programs. We’ve been creating positive change and supporting communities for more than 165 years. Visit www.ymcansw.org.au