Demand sees Kamloops Y create program for adults with anxiety

·3 min read

More than 200 requests in the past year citing stress from the COVID-19 pandemic spurred the Kamloops YMCA-YWCA to start a new program helping adults with anxiety.

Launched in March with the support of a social planning grant from the City of Kamloops, the Y’s Adult Mindfulness Group teaches adults ages 31 and up strategies for managing their worries.

The free program is a part of the Y Mind Initiative and is the first of its kind for the over-30 set as the association has for years offered similar youth (Y Mind Youth for ages 18 to 30) teen (Y Mind Teen for ages 13 to 17) and pre-teens (Mindful Monkeys for ages 8 to 12).

“We were often getting calls from people 31 and up who were asking, ‘Can you make an exception for me? Can I participate in this group? Do you have an adult group?,” Kamloops Y mental wellness director Jena Nickle told KTW. “That increased exponentially throughout 2020 with COVID.”

Those couple of hundred phone calls and emails often came from parents of teenaged participants, inquiring about the service for themselves, Nickle said, noting those who made the requests generally cited job loss, worrying about loved ones and anxiety over social interaction amidst COVID-19 as the cause of their stress amidst the pandemic.

Nickle said there’s been a 54 per cent increase in the number of people the Y has served with anxiety management groups in the past year.

Staffing has grown as well, with the Y adding three more counsellors last year to its previous complement of five.

The programming is unique, Nickle said, as it's geared toward people with mild to moderate anxiety.

“A lot of counselling in the community is very much designed for those who are in that more severe category and there’s not much it there for people experiencing mild to moderate [stress],” Nickle said. “And, with COVID, nearly everybody’s experiencing mild to moderate stress, anxiety and worries.”

The group focuses on mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapy, using evidence-based strategies to increase coping skills, Nickle said.

Exercises include working through the seven components of acceptance and commitment therapy, with topics such as unhooking from and managing thoughts, identifying values and how to take steps toward them even if one can’t live fully in alignment with said values. The group also connects people with others experiencing the same types of concerns, which is lacking amidst social distancing health orders due to the pandemic.

Two adult groups currently meet via Zoom video conferencing, with space for up to 13 people. Spots are still available.

No referral from a doctor is required, but people interested in joining the groups must undertake an intake process with a Y counsellor to determine if the group is a good fit.

Each person also receives a complimentary health and fitness membership to their YMCA for the duration of the seven-week program.

To contact the Kamloops YMCA-YWCA about its adult mindfulness program or its other groups, visit the website by clicking here, email mentalwellness@kamloopsy.ca or call Nickle 250-319-6648.

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Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week