Torquay surf therapy providing crucial help to young people
A TORQUAY-BASED not-for-profit welcomed nine local young people to their surf therapy holiday program at the Ocean Grove main beach during the school holidays, with many more youths soon to participate this season through to next June.
Ocean Mind, which will mark its five-year anniversary next month, is a local charity that provides therapeutic surf programs to young people aged eight to 18 years old who are experiencing mental health challenges, disabilities, and social isolation.
The organisation matches young people, who are referred to Ocean Mind by mental health support workers, with trained surf therapy mentors, who volunteer their time to build participants’ trust, confidence and self-efficacy through mentoring and surfing.
Ocean Mind enrolled 104 participants in their surf therapy program last season, to keep up with the huge need from the local community for youth mental health support and they are looking to exceed that number this season to bring down their waitlist.
Chief executive officer and founder Rachael Parker said the program’s importance had never been higher given the hardships young people have undergone during the ongoing pandemic.
“I think young people have been really disconnected from their communities, with their schools being locked down and not being able to socialise with their friends,” Ms Parker said.
“Rebuilding from this pandemic, it is going to be really important for us to connect with each other and programs like Ocean Mind does exactly that.
“I think it will be really important in that future development of our community to have more programs like this, which concentrates on connecting the community again.”
Will Devine, one of Ocean Mind’s Program Facilitators who is running the school holiday program, indicated an increasing amount of young people emerging from lockdowns need this program more than ever, as building a relationship with one of the charity’s several mentors is really important.
“Coming out of lockdown a lot of young people were feeling anxious and heightened, so it’s been great to reconnect through our program,” Mr Devine said.
“It’s been really important to get back in the water, seeing smiles on the kids’ faces and helping them achieve their goals.”
Mr Devine and his seven colleagues along with more than 120 volunteers have been running a dual online and face to face program these past holidays, to make sure young people continue to be supported throughout lockdowns.
Ocean Mind is looking for people who love surfing or the beach, and want to support young people, to volunteer.
Head to their website oceanmind.org.au/volunteer to sign up.