Free mental health program for youth expands to Surrey

Jun 28 2016, 9:41 pm

We all experience worry and anxiety, and if you think back to your teenage days, you know those feelings were probably even more intense. Chances are you were dealing with pressure in school, the physical toll of adolescence and now, the added layer of leading a digital life.

Unfortunately, those anxious feelings don’t always go away as we progress into adulthood – finding a job, figuring out what to do with your life or all the stress associated with post secondary studies.

No wonder one in seven young people in BC experience a mental illness. When stress and worries start impacting your life you might find yourself avoiding situations. Many teens find that it’s difficult to concentrate, relax, or experience uncomfortable physical sensations like a racing heart or feeling nauseous. All of these are signs that it’s time to get help.

A new and free program at the YMCA gets youth the help and support they need. The YMCA Youth or Teen Mindfulness Groups teach healthy coping skills to youth ages 13 to 30 in a fun and safe environment (groups are split by age). The programs combine physical activity and a complimentary YMCA membership with weekly group sessions to help youth deal with anxiety and find positive support from their peers. For information check out the YMCA’s website or contact [email protected] via email or 604-673-5842 via phone.

“Problems with anxiety are the most common mental health challenge that children and youth face, but the good news is, when recognized and treated early, youth can experience great improvements in their mental health and wellbeing,” says Elizabeth Sabine, who oversees the programs at the Y.

“We know that the need for free mental health programs in the Lower Mainland is high, so we’re excited to expand to Surrey this summer,” continues Sabine. The program recently received a generous donation from the Surrey Firefighters to help expand this free program to the Tong Louie Family YMCA in Surrey.

The program initially started early last year with a youth stream and saw impressive results. In fact, 100% of participants reported a decrease in feelings of anxiety after participating in the program. They felt more socially connected and equipped with the healthy coping skills needed to deal with stress and anxiety.

One sixteen-year-old named Alex graduated from the program. He comments that “being around other youth that were going through the same thing as me was the best part.” The program recently expanded to include a teen stream and is expanding again to Surrey this summer.

Programs start in early July and will continue throughout the upcoming year. No diagnosis is required, and anyone ages 13 to 30 can opt in to participate. Program staff have experience working with youth affected by mental health challenges, along with their Masters in Counselling Psychology. As an added plus, the teen stream even includes free snacks.

Untreated anxiety can cause youth to withdraw and prevent them from completing school. It can rob young people of the confidence they need to find and keep employment and slowly destroy their relationships. Summer is a great time to focus on mental wellness.

To learn more about the different age groups, dates, locations or to register for an upcoming information session, visit the YMCA’s website or contact [email protected] or 604-673-5842.

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