Over the past year, the Young Christian Workers (YCW) has been running a national campaign called "MIND! The Gap", which focuses on young people and mental health. The YCW gathered comments from over 1000 young people across England and Wales and have been using this feedback to develop new initiatives in schools, parishes and workplaces to help raise awareness about this important issue.
In addition, The YCW - which developed the well-known 'See-Judge-Act' method - has used the 'ACT' stage to see what more can be done to address gaps in the support systems for young people.
Increasingly, mental health is closely linked to the whole question of the environment and communities we inhabit, a point that Pope Francis makes in Laudato Si' in relation to social media: "Today's media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affections. Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise."
It is this melancholy and anxiety that the YCW hoped to draw attention to and alleviate in its "Mind! The Gap" campaign. But it has also made the National Team of the YCW reflect on how they use all of their resources - including the HQ - to create genuine and thriving communities.
Marc Besford, National Training and Development Worker for the YCW, said: "We have analysed the responses to our online survey and the suggestions regarding how we can raise awareness about mental health. Therefore, out of this project, one of the things we are exploring is a practical scheme to transform the garden which surrounds our HQ into a place of relaxation, peace and community for the workers, parishioners, young people in the area and all YCW members.
Our HQ is currently in the centre of Europe's biggest industrial park, next to a busy daytime shopping parade, with effectively no communal green spaces to use. In many ways it can best summarised by Pope Francis' description of our cities as "huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water (in which) neighbourhoods, even those recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green space. We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature."
We are hoping that the garden will become an oasis of tranquillity and a space for reflection in the midst of a busy world. We would like to remind people that "Work should be the setting for rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God." (Laudato Si, 127)."
Another part of the garden project would include a growing garden and allotment, as this would be a unique opportunity to engage more deeply with former parishioners of the area, many of whom still regularly visit the site and have expressed their support for and willingness to help with the proposals.
St John Paul II reflected in his encyclical "Salvifici Doloris" on the topic of suffering, offering a hopeful view that there can be value, worth and purpose in suffering: "Whoever suffers from mental illness always bears God's image and likeness in himself, as does every human being. In addition, he always has the inalienable right not only to be considered as an image of God and therefore as a person, but also to be treated as such."
Kate Wilkinson, National President of the YCW, added: "With our growing number of groups we have plans to use our HQ more regularly for training and activities with you, our volunteers and young members. Alongside this project we are also looking at exploring other ways in which we can make a difference and use your passion and commitment to help young people who are suffering from mental health within your communities. As well as this, within the YCW we have plenty of former members who live locally and are looking for ways to help support our movement, including grounds maintenance and fundraising."
Read more about Young Christian Workers here: www.ycwimpact.com
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