Caring for our young community members

We love spreading goodness at nudie and one of the most important things we can do is help our community whenever and however we can. Recently, we made a donation of juice to a very worthy an important organisation – Mountains Youth Services Team (MYST). As an early intervention youth charity supporting vulnerable young people aged 12-24 in the Blue Mountains community, MYST ensures young community members develop the resilience, life skills and self-esteem they need to not only survive but thrive. We spoke to the MYST team about the impact they’re having and how we can all support the young people within our community.

  • Tell us a little more about MYST, and why it’s such an important cause?

    “At MYST, we provide a number of services across a wide range of issues. Our MYST Youth Centres in Katoomba and Springwood offer young people the chance to connect with peers and youth workers, have fun, talk about issues and develop social skills. We also offer individual support (case workers and individual and family counselling) where our experienced staff provide direct care to young people including emergency practical assistance, ongoing case management, counselling, court support and advocacy.

    We also have an Outdoor Explore Program, which is a unique therapeutic program designed to give young people an opportunity to participate in a range of outdoor activities facilitated by highly experienced and qualified guides. These activities include canoeing, rock-climbing, abseiling, bike-riding, bushwalking and much more. And then there’s our Teen Mental Health First Aid program and a range of other events and activities to help bring you people and their communities together.”

  • What makes early intervention so important? What are some of the benefits of early intervention in mental wellbeing?

    “Early intervention reduces risk factors and increases the protective factors in a child/young person’s life. When effective, early intervention works to prevent problems occurring or allows us to tackle them head-on before they escalate. Importantly, it also helps to foster personal strengths and skills that prepare a child/young person for adult life. We have a good understanding of the risk factors that can threaten young people and their development, limit future social and economic opportunities, and increase the likelihood of mental and physical health problems, criminal involvement, substance misuse, or exploitation or abuse in later life. These factors exist at different levels within their environment and interact in complex ways.

    Early intervention approaches often focus on supporting four key aspects of child development – their physical, cognitive, behavioural, and social and emotional development. This helps to ensure we have the potential to make the biggest difference and help them thrive and live full, productive lives.”

  • Safe spaces for vulnerable young people are so important for obvious reasons, but are there additional benefits to these safe spaces that most would be surprised to learn?

    “MYST Youth Centres give young people a safe place to be able to come and enjoy a bite to eat, engage in activities, workshops and be able to access support from our youth workers. This gives them an opportunity to build new friendships, learn new skills and engage in social and community participation. Being part of a strong community network can have a positive effect on mental health and emotional wellbeing. It can also offer extra meaning and purpose to everyday life. By building trust and feeling safe in our spaces, this may allow a young person to feel safe enough to share any concerns and seek support.”

  • Have you seen the need for organisations like MYST increase during the pandemic? If so, why do you think this is?

    “The need for our services is acute and growing each day. This is mainly due to the trauma the community has suffered over the last few years, having gone through devastating bushfires in 2019-2020, followed by the pandemic, and more recently – the destructive floods and storms. The effects of which are still being felt and are likely to impact for several years. Young people need our support more than ever to help cope with this trauma and the massive changes to their daily lives caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In a 2020 survey conducted by Headspace, 77% of young people reported the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted on their work, study, or financial situation.”

  • What are some of the tell-tale signs parents or peers can look out for when recognising and supporting vulnerable youth?

    “Major changes in behaviour, such as self-isolation, withdrawing, aggression, disengagement, school refusal, crying or not wanting to see friends or go out.”

  • Tell us about the launch of the community Street Art Mural and what this will mean to those involved.

    “On Saturday 2nd April, we unveiled a new and unique Street Art Mural at our Katoomba Youth Centre. The event also was the launch of our 2022 Youth Week Celebrations and was attended by local Community and business leaders. The mural was the culmination of a project which was funded by The Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund project through the joint Commonwealth/State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements. Projects funded were aimed at increasing ccommunity wellbeing, connectedness, social recovery, and help build resilience and hope for the future.

    The mural was aimed at increasing young people’s connectedness with peers and the wider community while providing an opportunity for creative expression by Katoomba High school and Blacktown Youth College – Lawson Campus students. The mural allowed them to work together to develop a piece of art based upon resilience, and for the mural to share and inspire recovery and resilience within the community. The mural is unique in that it has been painted on the new basketball court at MYSTS Katoomba Youth Centre and is now a key feature in a safe space for young people to come and enjoy the art and the basketball court.”

  • nudie was able to donate some juice for the event – how do donations like ours help in supporting young people and the community? Why are donations so crucial during tough times?

    “MYST is a registered charity and relies in the generosity and support of the local community. Over the last few years, our fundraising capacity has been greatly impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Generous donations and support such as the juice nudie was able to provide, ensure we can continue to provide the best possible services to young people who reach out to us, and hopefully help increase the capacity of our programs so we can reach and support more young people in the community.

    We also hope to respond to community need with several new programs if funding can be found. Donations help with being able to respond quickly to local issues. One program we are currently seeking funding/donations for is a new Breakfast Club. Several local high schools have recently approached us for assistance to run a breakfast club one day a week within these schools, as since the pandemic, more young people are coming to school without any breakfast. Breakfast Club would provide healthy meals to those who might otherwise go without, giving them a happy, healthy start to the day.”

  • Finish this sentence…

    All young people deserve to be…. heard and feel valued.”

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