More than half of all homeless young people report symptoms associated with mental health issues, with poor mental health both a cause and symptom of homelessness in young people*.
Through its partnership with nib foundation, Path 2 Change has launched Me Unlimited!, an innovative program that is set to help break the cycle of homelessness by empowering vulnerable young people to better manage their mental health symptoms and diagnosis through physical activity.
Program participants will be joined tomorrow at Merewether Beach by stars of the Newcastle Knights for a surf lesson hosted by Surfest to launch the program.
Knights player, Nathan Ross, said getting outdoors and enjoying physical activity plays a major role in feeling positive and staying healthy.
"It's great to get involved and help young local people who have faced some struggles. Homelessness is a complex issue, but by taking little steps like getting outdoors and involved in programs like Me Unlimited! we can help make positive changes," said Mr Ross.
Path 2 Change Executive Manager, Jennifer O'Sullivan, is excited about the potential outcomes of the program and the positive implications for disadvantaged young people.
"Youth unemployment is high in the Newcastle and Hunter region, making it difficult for young people to secure an income. For those who are homeless and struggle with mental health issues, breaking the cycle of homelessness is particularly difficult," said Ms O’Sullivan.
nib foundation Executive Officer, Amy Tribe said the program has been developed based on the concept that regular activity improves the ability to self-manage mental health issues.
"Me Unlimited! combines weekly group fitness, life skills workshops and technology in the form of fitness trackers, to set and monitor personal goals. This practical and engaging way of addressing mental health challenges can also have much wider social health benefits both in prevention and management," Ms Tribe said.
"Homelessness and mental health problems can lead to isolation, disconnecting young people from everyday life, and compounding the effects on physical health and psychological wellbeing. We're proud to be funding a program that equips at-risk youth with healthy strategies to build confidence, wellbeing and self-esteem to help change their lives for the better," she added.
With an emphasis on fun, the holistic 12-week program will assist to develop social connections, enhance communication and foster teamwork, enabling at-risk young people to develop skills to improve their employment opportunities, living conditions and mental wellbeing.
*MacKenzie, Flatau, Steen, Thielking (2016) “The Cost of Youth Homelessness in Australia” Research Briefing