Between 2021 and 2022, there were 62,508 mental health and addictions visits to Halton healthcare services.
Thursday afternoon at the Burlington YMCA, MP Karina Gould announced funding support for the YMCA’s mental wellness programs, specifically the Y Mind program.
“There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll, not just on our physical health, but mental health as well,” Gould said in front of a crowd at the YMCA. “Over the last few years, many people have reported an increase in stress, anxiety, depression, or loneliness, and young people are among those more likely to say they are struggling or losing jobs.”
More than $237,000 is being provided by the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to support the YMCA of Hamilton, Burlington, and Brantford, with an additional $50,000 coming from centralized resources. The Y Mind program started in 2022.
These programs are intended for people aged 13-30 with mild to moderate anxiety or depression. Groups of people work together and discuss the issues they face daily, while participating in mindfulness exercises and getting something specific to work on during the days that they do not meet. The program is constantly being adapted to meet the changing needs of the participants.
“We always review the skills we went over the previous week,” Frances Anderson, lead facilitator of the Y Mind program at the YMCA Hamilton. Burlington, and Brantford, says. “If we do breathing or mindfulness exercises, they may not work for everyone. So we welcome honest feedback, review what we learned in the last lessons, and can try something new.”
The COVID pandemic triggered a 25 per cent increase in anxiety and depression worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, with youth being disproportionately at risk of self harming behaviours.
Ensuring young people have access to programs such as Y Mind in their communities is key for recovery.
“It’s important to meet youth where they are right now, and to recognize there are a lot of young people struggling with mental health, feeling very alone,” Gould says. “It’s great to see an initiative like this that brings them together and provides the tools to deal with this in a healthy way.”
Since the program kicked off last year, there have been seven Y Mind sessions with 73 participants. An additional eight sessions are planned over the next year that will help 96 more young people.
The public perception of the YMCA is often that it is just a gym or rec centre, but the charity organization is regularly involved in community events and programs.
“We offer a multitude of programs,” Manny Figueiredo, president and CEO of YMCA Hamilton. Burlington, and Brantford says. If you come into our ecosystem, and you do Y Mind, maybe you join another program or volunteer here, unlike other programs where after six weeks you’re done.”
The connections and the resources can help people far beyond the initial time they spend in a program. But the programs offered have to be reflective of the needs of the community, whether they be good or bad.
“There is no stigma when you walk into a YMCA,” Figueredo says.