Providing mental support during Covid-19

Date: 07 October 2020

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many YMCAs have organised online and face-to-face sessions to address the mental wellbeing of their communities. One way of marking World Mental Health Dayis to highlight the work of our colleagues worldwide.

Change Agents Covid-19 Response team

As the Covid-19 pandemic spread around the world, a group of Change Agents came together to form the response team to check on other young leaders from the network.

The group offered digital spaces for those needing support or connections during the lockdown.

Webinar in the Philippines

In August 2020, YMCA Manila in the Philippines led an online webinar on mental health under the title “Strength-Based Sharing for a Braver New Normal”. “Covid-19 created a significant impact in the physical, financial, and mental health concerns of children, families, schools and communities”, says Pablito Tabucol, National General Secretary at YMCA of the Philippines. “The pandemic has brought extraordinary challenges and has affected the educational sectors. The sudden shutdown or closing of several small and big establishments increased unemployment and hit our economy. And all this has  resulted in stress, anxiety and other mental and physical concerns.”

The main speaker was Dr. Sheila Marie Hocson, Director for Guidance and Counseling at the Far Eastern University. This webinar was attended by 175 teachers and YMCA advisers to Elementary and High Schools. It was a “coping hub platform” for those who were affected physically, financially and emotionally by the crisis. The main aim was to develop resilience in body, mind and spirit, to cope with the challenges of the times.

Mental Health Awareness video in Africa

On 1 July 2020, the Africa Alliance of YMCAs launched a short video to provide information on mental health to young people. “After Covid-19 broke out, I had to be creative in how I could educate  young people in Kenya on different topics around  Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), and mental health” explains Kristin Eliassen, SRHR and Youth Advisor for The Africa Alliance of YMCAs. “The best way to reach the youth with information is to make digital learning resources. It is important because mental health issues are ever more pressing, and especially now during Covid-19 it is important to know the signs of mental health conditions.”

Webinar on mental health and young people in South America

In August 2020, YMCA Latin America and Caribbean led a webinar on mental health and young people (in Spanish), facilitated by interns and students Oriana del Sol Ortiz Parrao and Renata Namnum. They shared data and outcomes of extensive research as a basis for future mental health programmes. As Oriana del Sol Ortiz Parrao says: “We wanted to share the information, discoveries, and conclusions that we had obtained after exhaustive research, so that they could serve as a starting point to draw the attention of the local YMCAs to  the subject.”

The online event was attended by around 38 people. Oriana del Sol Ortiz Parrao shares: “Mental health should be a priority in the region. For me, talking about mental health is important to develop a better understanding, especially in Latin America, since it is still a taboo subject”. Renata Namnum confirms: “I think we are facing a breaking point where conversation about, and the wide exposure of, mental health is necessary if we are going  to reduce the high incidence of mental illness,  and also the treatment gap around the world, and especially in low- and middle-income regions. Dialogue is very important in order to give this socioeconomic and health problem the attention  it deserves. It is time to talk about these issues even though they are uncomfortable and hard to process topics: in this way, we can get more people involved  in the urgent search for solutions, from young leaders, to specialists, organization leaders, to CEOs, politicians, etc.”

More information: read the presentation of the webinar (in English)

Elderly people count too

In June 2020, YMCA Lebanon released a touching short video (in Arabic) to highlight how important it is to take care of the mental wellbeing of our elderly people, as well.

Back on Track report in the UK

The Back on Track report was launched by YMCA England and Wales in August 2020. The aim of this research was to find out from young people themselves what the impact of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown has been on them.

  • More than two-fifths of young people report that they are worried about their mental health or wellbeing as they come out of the Covid-19 lockdown (42%).
  • Hand-in-hand, mental health services and youth services can work together – not only to address  the negative impact of Covid-19 on young people’s mental health, but to build lasting resilience in the face of all shock and hazards that people face.

YMCA Leaders Talks

World YMCA developed the Resilient Leaders series and heard from experts on many topics including mental health.

The importance of self-care, even for organisation leaders, was shared broadly. Leaders should look after themselves, especially their mental health. We should emphasise the importance of mental health in all we do. This includes ensuring the promotion of self-care amongst our teams and stakeholders.

The pandemic has shown us that it’s high time to focus on the mental health protection of young people.  It has shone a light on such issues as isolation, digital autism, etc.

All the key learnings are available on the playbook released in September 2020.


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