Reimagining new mental wellbeing approaches

How do we respond to young people’s mental challenges and expectations today?

Even before Covid, young people faced immense pressures, immense competition, immense expectation, and often immense dis-location, compounded by social media. And the challenges to their mental health are even greater now, with Covid, as their education, their jobs, their friendships and often their mental wellbeing are severely hit.

Young people’s well-being – physical, mental and spiritual – is the first concern of the global YMCA community and the 60+ million young people worldwide that it serves.

That is why – in these disrupted times – World YMCA along with YMCA Australia has launched a global initiative called the “Mental Health & Wellbeing Reimagine Lab”.

The aim is to identify new ways to address the mental health needs of young people globally.

How does it work?

Young leaders and experts from all regions of the world have been selected and split into three online groups. Using a methodology co-designed with the global strategy design agency Business Models Inc (BMI), the participants are asked during different sessions to “discover, explore, create, test and learn, communicate, and finally present and pitch”.  The ideas presented at the end of the process should be innovative, replicable and applicable to all.

Being a rebel

Group 1, comprising 10 young people based in Europe, started the “Discover” phase on Monday 11 November. BMI Facilitator Maaike Doyer set the tone: “Be a rebel, think different. Let’s take this opportunity to disrupt and to do something we haven’t done before”.

Participants were asked to reflect on the context of today and to visualise the world they want to live in, in three years’ time. Problems such as the pandemic, the lack of job opportunities, the loss of hope and the rise in loneliness were raised, as well as some of the results: at best anxiety, and at worst suicide.

This means that, for the next sessions, everyone can bear in mind what are the current issues faced by young people. The main idea is for participants to get a common understanding of what is important – and what is not – to explore the solutions.

The journey has just begun

Chloé, from YMCA France, is enthusiastic about the project: “I was very happy to meet the team: they are all very active and welcoming. I think the Reimagine Lab is going to be a great adventure.”

Nathan, from YMCA Ireland, agrees: “It was great to be involved in this YMCA world movement lab and it was evident that there was a clear passion for better mental health outcomes among our young people. I now look forward with excitement to see what innovative ideas and models are going to come out of these labs, and make a real contribution towards supporting our young people and their mental health and wellbeing.”

The different groups are now going to meet on a regular basis, to exchange, to reflect and to agree on the next steps.

“I warmly welcome this great initiative”, says World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee. “We are challenging ourselves to think afresh, at how we can serve young people better. It’s part of a wider and bigger process of ‘Reimagination’ and ‘Reset’, as we seek to turn the crisis of Covid into an opportunity to make ourselves a YMCA for the 21st century. And a key ingredient for success is that we hear young people’s voices – both as to what they need, and also as to how they themselves can help. Because they themselves are agents of change, if we only give them the space.”

The Reimagine Lab is part of the work of a newly-launched global YMCA ‘Community of Impact’ on Mental Health. This Community is led by YMCA Australia, and brings together some 20 national YMCA Movements from all over the world to map, share, replicate and accelerate all the work they are already doing in this field. The Reimagine Lab will feed into the final dimension of the Community of Impact, which is to innovate.