By Shana Atkins
The Young Adult’s Group is a program offered by Buckingham House that provides fun and constructive activities on Fridays and Saturdays for young people between the ages of 18 and 30. Running the youth program at Buck House allows us to use the existing resources and equipment, so we have a full gym, a table tennis table, and enough room for dramatic and artistic expression. As all of the young people are adults, they are also welcome to participate in any of the groups or activities in the regular Buck House program, with tennis being one of the most popular examples.
Our Friday program runs from 12pm to 3pm, and includes a yummy lunch provided by our cultural cooking group, though sometimes we have a BBQ instead. There are two groups we run on Fridays: a drama group, and an art group. We use the drama group to engage in light and fun non-confrontational interactions that allow us to get to know each other better and build on our social skills, while in the art class we express our creative sides with paint, clay, origami and other mediums. We hold the drama group around 1pm, and the art group at 2pm.
On Saturdays we all meet at Central station and go on a fun outing. We get up to all sorts of things: bush walks, theme parks, museums, and mini golf, to name a few, and it’s a great way to get everyone out of the house and into the community.
The world can feel like a scary place, what with all the competing demands of work, education, personal relationships, and social media standards, and it can be easy to get lost in the whirlwind of it all and lose track of our emotional and mental well-being. The kind of early intervention we offer in the Young Adult’s Group can prevent further slides from happening and help the participants to become all they want to be. Young people should engage with the program because it’s a great opportunity to be a part of something larger than yourself, to come together and contribute to a group that is striving for harmony and optimism.
While at least half of our young adult members have been attending our program since the start, they are free to come and go as they please. This means our exact numbers vary, but we are supporting 10 or so people regularly at any given time. We hope to continue seeing new faces as word gets out, and this is why we held the Open Day BBQ on Friday the 27th of July: we want to start conversations about our program and highlight what we can offer to young adults in the community. From all the positive feedback we heard, I believe this was achieved (thanks for coming, by the way!).
While some Flourish Australia groups and services have a set running time, people are welcome to attend our program for as long as they like. And even once a participant passes 30, they’re still welcome to attend the other groups we run at Buck House.
There are many advantages to early intervention, so our basic gameplan is all about getting our participants back on track with becoming adults. We teach them essential life skills, provide opportunities to practise being social, encourage them to engage with study and training and to find employment, and to seek out sustainable housing situations. Generally, we support young people to develop their overall well-being and to reach for their personal goals.
I would say that all the activities we offer the young people are a combination of enjoyable and constructive, and we are always trying to encourage recovery and develop psychosocial strengths. We have a focus on healthy living, and promote exercise and physical activity with bush walks, bike riding and coastal walks, to name just a few types. We also have a sobriety policy for anybody attending the group, and encourage participants to make wise choices with regards to substance use.
Regardless of life experiences or background, anyone who feels they would like some mental health support in a recovery-oriented space is welcome to check out if the program is for them. While you don’t necessarily need to have had contact with a clinical mental health service, most of the participants have. There’s no strict criteria when it comes to diagnosis or treatment history.
When it comes to what we want the young people to take away from our program, I think if somebody feels that the group is a safe and supported place that has helped their state of mind, then we’ve succeeded. I believe that the exact definition of “success” is unique to each person, as long as it has allowed them to progress towards their recovery. But even if the young people feel unwell or take a few steps backwards or struggle at times, that’s okay. We aim to help make those experiences less severe and less frequent.
I’m a Peer Worker. In a nutshell, I help support young people who are experiencing mental health issues to work towards their personal goals. I do this by facilitating a fun and respectful space for recovery. While I am the only staff member who runs this group, we often have social work students who come and help out. Their contribution is greatly valued. We also have a secondary team with another peer worker and mental health workers who can assist with the program if needed.
To be a Peer Worker, there is an expectation that you have to have a lived experience of mental health issues. I am also three quarters of the way through my Social Work Bachelor’s Degree, which I’ve found to be a very helpful addition to my own lived experience.