Mental Health new approaches, by young people for young people

In November 2020, World YMCA along with YMCA Australia launched a global initiative called the “Mental Health & Wellbeing Reimagine Lab”. A series of online workshops, with YMCA participants from all over the world, was facilitated by the global strategy design agency Business Models Inc (BMI). The main goal was to come up with innovative and bold ideas to revolutionise the way YMCA approaches mental health. On 27 January 2021, six teams presented their solutions and opened a new path full of energy and creativity to move forward.

During the sessions, YMCA participants were encouraged to think differently and to expand their imagination. World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee said: “Let’s push our limits, let’s explore new frontiers, and let’s do things we do not usually do. We have to be relevant to the needs of young people in their communities”.

YMCA Australia chief executive Melinda Crole made a plea: “ Let’s build a bridge over something new – let’s move move away from ‘either/or’ and go to ‘both/and’ ”.

The BMI facilitators then introduced the various teams and their solutions: “The future is uncertain, so the best skill we can teach is the ability to navigate uncertainty. This creates resilience and agility”.

All the teams came up with solutions which are digital, collaborative and scalable.

  1. The team “Wellbeing Charter and Toolbox” proposes to establish a charter to recognize the right to mental health and wellbeing, and a global toolkit to gather mental health and wellbeing activities.
  2. The team “Y-versity” focuses on the sense of inclusion and belonging by proposing the Y-Versity Hub, a platform to share resources and knowledge which is diverse and inclusive
  3. The team “Hope for Hopeless” specifically recommends mental health sessions for young people based in Savar (Bangladesh) to offer them spaces to express their anxiety and their hopes.
  4. The team “M.Y. Wellbeing” is asking how we can provide mental health local solutions in a global context. The abilities to understand each other and to show compassion are essential. And the solutions have to be simple enough to be transferable and deployed in any region of the world.
  5. The team “Y-Care” thinks about a digital resource platform to improve the community connection, to train YMCA staff and to improve the YMCA brand.
  6. Finally, the team “AppY” develops the concept of a digital wellbeing gateway for young people to access support and information, and to engage with others.

World YMCA President Patricia Pelton closed the session, congratulating all teams: “We have talked about why we must have strong YMCAs, and said that we need to serve young people who need us more than ever, but even more importantly to serve young people whom WE need more than ever – as agents of change! Clearly, this Reimagination Lab Showcase – Global Community of Impact Mental Health and Wellbeing demonstrates this in abundance”.

The next steps are for World YMCA to study the proposals and to decide how to proceed to implement them. Once the main requirements are finalised, a roadmap will be defined and young leaders will drive the project to its completion.

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.