YAM is a culturally sensitive programme for 14 – 16 year olds promoting increased knowledge about mental health through dialogue and play. Youth learn from each other and are encouraged to practice empathy and solidarity.
YAM offers a hands-on approach to mental health issues such as stress, crisis, depression and suicide. The programme spans over five sessions with three role-play workshops at the core. In YAM youth are considered experts of their own mental health and their voices and experiences take centre stage. Role-play and reflection stand at the core of the program as the youth play out and discuss a wide variety of feelings, solutions and outcomes. Cognitive, emotional and experiential learning in YAM help youth to explore problem solving and encourages solidarity and how they can help peers in need. Additionally, YAM provides a guide that helps youth connect with local mental and general health resources as well as organizations who work with youth rights and empowerment in their communities.
In YAM, scientific assessment of mental health and risk are not pitted against the everyday experiences and meanings the participating youth give to their experiences. Instead everything is up for discussion in a rich and context-based programme. By focusing on the problems important to the participating youth, YAM invites debate and a more fluid approach to mental health topics through role-plays picked and enacted by the youth. YAM puts youth in focus, not for being in or of trouble, but instead emphasises reflection in the present moment.
Mental health is inseparable from physical health and both are intrinsically linked to human rights. Poor mental health can affect the wider health and development of children and adolescents. In a report about the prevention of mental disorders, the World Health Organization (WHO) draws attention to the stigma, discrimination and human rights violations that individuals and affected families suffer. Culturally sensitive and well-targeted prevention efforts can do a lot to alter how mental health is perceived and thus slowly change the conversation about such issues in society.
YAM was created with the heterogeneity of youth in mind. Its flexible core allows for the contextualization of youth in social, political and relational contexts depending on when and where the programme is carried out. Based on empathy building and finding solutions as a group, the YAM youth reflect and analyse their actions through play and dialogue. Through the discussion of different perspectives on problems, the participants learn that they as individuals are not alone responsible for solving their problems, but that they can together help each other to feel better. Identifying mental health resources in the community and connecting individuals and schools with such organisations, YAM offers support after the programme ends.
YAM has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety, suicide attempts, and severe suicidal ideation and facilitates healthy lifestyle choices among European youth.
Go here for more information on YAM implementation costs.