Mental health is important at every age, and social anxiety is something many young people face. Meli has created a program to help young people gain confidence in social situations, which young people and their parents have said is making a real difference in their lives.
Meli’s Social Engagement and Inclusion Program started in January 2023, based on a similar program previously run by headspace Geelong.
The program engages young people who are disengaged from school and socially isolated via 1:1 support and group-based programs.
Group programs include and strong focus on art activities as well as social activities including trips to places such as Werribee Zoo.
Mum Sally, said her 14-year-old daughter Maja wasn’t going to school, and spending all of her time in her bedroom.
Through SEIP, Maja has met other young people with similar interests, participated in activities she enjoys and is now back at school 3-4 days a week.
“It’s a vital program,” Sally said. “It’s a way to make teenagers feel connected in society and feel like they have something to get out of their bedrooms for… to build their self-confidence and their feeling of acceptance for who they are.”
16-year-old Tom also found it difficult to attend school because of social anxiety.
He has been able to gain some self-confidence through SEIP, through the one-on-one and group sessions.
“It doesn’t feel like I’m in a program, it feels like I’m talking to a friend,” Tom said.
“It actually feels like they care, and want to know how I’m feeling.”
Since the start of the year participants in SEIP have been able to successfully enrolled into alternate learning programs, referred to mental health services.
“Although we are not primarily a mental health service, but for most of the young people who come through Meli’s Youth Services, their mental health is a significant factor in their lives,” Manager Youth Services Zak Davidson said.
“Programs such as the Social Engagement and Inclusion Program are just one way we can help young people feel more connected and confident about themselves.
“The majority of young people referred to SEIP are so socially isolated that leaving the house with the SEIP worker is a major outcome.
“By providing this gentle yet proactive outreach support the resilience and engagement of these young people can be bolstered and thus increase their future engagement and readiness for education support.”
Discover more about Meli’s youth programs at meli.org.au