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YMCA moves free mental wellness program online

The YMCA of British Columbia’s Y Mind initiative to help young people cope with stress, worry and anxiety is moving to an online delivery model during the COVID-19 pandemic. Young people ages 13-30 can now sign up for Youth and Teen Y Mind programs that start in early May at no cost.

“We were midway through our winter programs when the pandemic was declared,” said Sarah Blackmore, Manager of Mental Wellness at the YMCA of Greater Vancouver. “We tested online delivery of our program with 30 young people and were successful at achieving the health and social outcomes through a modified format, so we’re really excited to continue doing this to help even more youth.”

Y Mind is supported by the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and serves the five regional health authorities across the province. Through this program –– now in an online model –– young people will have the chance to learn strategies to cope with anxiety through evidence-based programming led by trained mental health professionals.

“Anxiety and stress are prevalent in daily life for young people at the best of times and this pandemic is making mindfulness and the act of supporting one another that much more critical,” said Blackmore.

“We are thrilled that the YMCA was able to convert this valuable program into an online version so quickly,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Now, more than ever, young people need to know that it’s okay to reach out for help to deal with the anxiety, stress, and depression that many people are feeling during this difficult time. Staying connected is more important than ever.”

Each online Y Mind group includes 12 participants at a time for the duration of a six and seven-week program for young people ages 13-17 and 18-30 respectively who are experiencing mild to moderate anxiety. There is no cost to participate and referrals are not required. Each young person typically also receives a complimentary health and fitness membership to their local YMCA for the duration of the program, however access to these facilities is not possible due to the pandemic. Rather, participants have access to an online library of fitness videos available at nbc.ymca.ca.

“We live in a world where we think that everyone has everything figured out except for us, and there is nothing more powerful than meeting other people who think the way you do and have similar struggles,” said previous YMCA Mindfulness program participant, Sarah Jickling. “I gained a support network through the program and I also learned how to be mindful about my emotions, that negative feelings are okay and that daily practices are important.”

Programs are available across the province and parents or young people interested in the program can go to http://gv.ymca.ca/mentalwellness to register now. In Prince George, the YMCA of Northern BC is registering sessions for 13-17 years and 18-30 years starting the week of May 4th. Spaces are limited, so the Y encourages people to sign up soon. For information on how to register, email ymind@nbc.ymca.ca.

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