Reflecting on Loneliness: Mental Health Awareness Week

This year, The Mental Health Foundation have recognised 9th – 15th May as the week of mental health awareness. This year, the theme explored is the effects of loneliness and isolation.  

Loneliness affects millions of people both in the UK and worldwide. It contributes massively to difficult mental health struggles and was an important factor to the impact on mental health in the last two years, with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic necessitating lockdown procedures and severe restrictions upon seeing friends and family members.  

According to gov.uk between March and June 2020 (the time in which schools were closed), symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were found to have increased significantly in both children and young people aged between 7.5 – 12 years old in comparison to before the pandemic (however, the nature of the research makes a definitive link between young people’s mental health and the pandemic harder to establish). Additionally in 2020, young people aged 16 – 24 who live in the most deprived areas of the UK also experienced increases in psychological distress that were 3.4 times larger than those in lesser deprived areas. More information can be found here.  

Since the easing of lockdown restrictions, Paisley YMCA and other youth work services have since opened once again to the public to offer a space in which young people can come together to meet old friends and make new ones. The young people who attend our weekly clubs come from all over Renfrewshire and Glasgow too. In spite of this, they have formed lasting friendships that make them look forward to seeing each other every week. Our Makerspace provides a safe and welcoming environment for our young people to spend valuable time with each other and our youth workers and this kind of interaction is crucial to combat the effects of loneliness.  

A reflection from one of our young people

At one of our clubs this week, our young people talked about the ways technology in particular can help ease feelings of loneliness. It can provide a connection to other young people through online games and social media, which was a huge way for people to stay connected during the pandemic when meeting in person was difficult or impossible.  

However, they discussed the ways in which technology could also make them feel alienated and more disconnected from others as it shouldn’t substitute for connections with people in the real world. Technology is an integral part of many young people’s lives and discussing the effect it can have on mental health and loneliness is a valuable conversation – both the advantages and disadvantages it can bring.  

As we begin to come to terms with the long-term effects of the pandemic and what it means for the future, we must take into account the mental toll as well as the physical. Additionally, we will continue to reach out to young people and offer them as much care as we can through their struggles. Many young people suffer from loneliness and isolation and we provide them with understanding and support through resources such as through our social clubs, youth work and activities, as well as recommending other resources and encouraging a positive and safe space for them to share their thoughts and feelings.  

This week, we reflect on the effect loneliness and isolation can have on our young people and we encourage them to seek help and guidance through mental health resources and youth work designed to help them through this difficult time this week and for the foreseeable future. Together, we can show there is always someone who can help and no one is truly alone.  

Changes to our Board at Paisley YMCA 💬 – April 2022

After much deliberation and contribution to Paisley YMCA over the past several weeks, we can announce both the departure and addition of several members to our board.  

We say a fond goodbye to members such as Jim Moulson, Peter Gill, Bob Copleton, John McLaren and John McDonald, all of whom have worked hard serving as Board members for many years, and we thank them and wish them well in the future.  

We welcome our new board Chair, Craig Green, who has served as a member of the board for two years.  

Craig says “I’m honoured to have been elected as Chair.  We face a daunting financial position after the effects of Covid on the organisation and the fire which destroyed our original Makerspace premises and which badly set us back.  But, we’re now rebuilding our services after a return to the High Street in Paisley and we’re cautiously confident that we’ll be able to secure funding to continue and to further develop the services which make a real, positive difference to young people in the Paisley area – and our confidence comes from knowing the value of our skilled and dedicated staff team.”  

When asked what motivates him and others to give up time to support Paisley YMCA, he says that “It’s our values which sustain us – we work on the basis that people should treat others as they’d like to be treated themselves, and we work to support people in need, whoever they may be.  These are fundamental Christian values and while many of us are not at all religious, they’re values which unite us and which if everyone lived by, would make the world a far better place”

We are also thrilled to welcome our first female Vice Chair, Karen Murphy.  

She states: “The last couple years have been a trying time for Paisley YMCA, as well as the wider youth sector, due to the impact of COVID on our service delivery but also our young people. We are also still recovering from the fire at William Street. We have a lot to rebuild and redevelop.  

“However, I am confident that we can build Paisley YMCA up to again be the national leading organisation within the digital youth work field. We are redeveloping our High Street premises to be another ‘makerspace’, which I know our young people are keen to see. We will not disappoint them.” 

Our board also now includes Alex McFarlane, Diane Mitchell, David Keenan, Stuart Lowe and Gillian May.  

We happily welcome our new board members and we look forward to their contribution to the future of Paisley YMCA.  

Message from Our Board – Statement from Vice Chair, April 2022

A statement from our newly elected Vice Chair of the Board at Paisley YMCA Karen Murphy:

“I am delighted to have been elected by my peers within the board and wider membership as the Vice Chair of Paisley YMCA. I have several years of experience within the youth work field, as well as a Masters degree in community development and youth work. It was during my university placement that I began working with Paisley YMCA in a voluntary capacity which led me to join the board. Furthermore, in my current role as Volunteer Coordinator, I am developing a nation-wide volunteer programme, which is giving me a wider pool of knowledge and experience to bring to my role with Paisley YMCA.

“The last couple years have been a trying time for Paisley YMCA, as well as the wider youth sector, due to the impact of COVID on our service delivery but also our young people. We are also still recovering from the fire at William Street. We have a lot to rebuild and redevelop. However, I am confident that we can build Paisley YMCA up to again be the national leading organisation within the digital youth work field. We are redeveloping our High Street premises to be another ‘makerspace’, which I know our young people are keen to see . We will not disappoint them.

“It has been emotional to see so many long-standing board members leave us and we hope to properly celebrate their contributions soon. Yet, our AGM has brought in new board members including Gillian, Stuart, and the return of David. All three bring different specialist knowledge which will help the development of Paisley YMCA. We are lucky to still have Alex and Diane on board, as well as Craig leading us in his new role at the helm as Chair. As such, we have an extremely knowledgeable and experienced Board who I know can bring about the changes needed to develop Paisley YMCA into the organisation that we envision: a fellowship of like-minded people. We also have the opportunity to co-opt another 3 board members to help fill in the gaps in our boards’ areas of expertise. This will be a long process; however, we have a great staff team led by Claire to support us in this – and we will also be guided by our young people.

This opportunity to be Vice Chair is really exciting for me personally but also for Paisley YMCA, in that I am the first ever female office bearer for the organsiation. My colleagues on the board and I hope to continue to modernise Paisley YMCA in its practices; but our Christian values and our organisational aims remain the same: to support the communities of Paisley and the surrounding areas to flourish.”

Our New Creative STEM projects this month at Paisley YMCA 🌱

Big things have been happening this month at Paisley YMCA!  

Last week at our STEM clubs, our young people set up our new smart gardens which are currently displayed in our window display at our space at 39 High Street.  

Each of our gardens grows an assortment of yellow tomatoes, lettuces and basil. Assisted by the unique set up of their water tank and UV light to help them along, our gardens will hopefully be blooming soon in the spring with the help of our young people! They can be seen in our space and we can’t wait to see them bloom.  

Another feature that can be viewed in the window of our space is our new 3D printer, which regularly shows the creation of our new prints every week. We have created several small animal mascots already and intend to see which more ambitious prints we can create in the future.  

Our new smart gardens and 3D printer are a part of our continued effort to support young people to explore STEM in a fun, interesting and accessible way. As these projects continue, our young people are looking forward to learning about healthy eating and sustainable gardening, designing and making cool and useful items through the use of technology and building up a valuable skill-set that they can take into their future.

We are looking forward to even more developments in time for summer! Tickets for our STEM clubs are available from Eventbrite.

Follow us on Twitter (@YMCAPaisley), Instagram (@paisleyymca) and Facebook (We Are Paisley YMCA) for more updates and posts about current projects.  

A Space for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics; Reflecting on Science Week 2022 at Paisley YMCA

As we come to the end of UK Science week, we reflect on the importance role science and technology plays in our weekly clubs available for our young people. 

We have a variety of science-based clubs available at our makerspace each week, including STEM Girls on Wednesday and STEM Saturdays, which allows a space for our young people to create and explore STEM experiments and activities.  

With our latest technological additions to our space such as a vinyl cutter and 3D printers, this opens up even more possibilities for seeing what our young people can come up with using technology and household materials to create STEM-based projects that teach them about the imagination that goes into science.  

According to Youth Worker Mary-Jane McNally, this freedom to explore and create is part of why the science element to our clubs is so important to our young people, “The way science is normally portrayed is a very specific type that only appeals to one type of brain. And I feel that’s doing a science a disservice. It’s about repeating and recording and there’s other aspects. If you want to experience a range of things just casually on their own terms [..] It’s nice to be able to want to do something and just do it. School decides on your behalf what you’re doing.  

“They come here and if they want something, within reason, we’ll try to facilitate them getting towards their goals so the range of science can be broader. Some science-based environments are about results; here it’s about discovering things on your one terms instead of solely going through what people have done in the past so you can get something new.” 

At Paisley YMCA, we base the majority of our weekly clubs at the Makerspace from response to the suggestions of our young people. Therefore, the strong scientific element of our clubs comes from our young people’s enthusiasm for STEM/STEAM-based activities. These included the building of structures and project using household items and materials such as pipe cleaners, cardboard, spaghetti and much more throughout the week! While our Future Fridays are a great space for young people to just chill and hang out with their friends, Wednesdays and Saturdays are when the young people come to show us their innovation with our Youth Workers to help them along with their projects and ideas!

However, STEAM activities cover much more than just the S for science; it also stands for Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics which open up far more areas of opportunity for learning. Paisley YMCA are also known for our work in digital technology, an element we hope to expand upon even more with the arrival of our new kit! The young people are also passionate about the arts, as shown by their creations and drawings they present each week at club.

Both the freedom and proactivity of our STEM-based activities at weekly clubs’ showcase is one of the core elements to their enduring popularity with our young people. This is echoed by the young people themselves, as stated by one of our weekly STEM girls; “There’s actually activities we can do here and it’s not someone just talking and throwing information at you for an hour. Here you actually get to do activities and learn things, you’re not just sitting at a table.  

“You don’t have tests here, you do the activity and it makes it more enjoyable and makes you want to do it more.” 

While UK Science week may have come to an end, we intend on keeping our scientific roots growing all year round! And all information and tickets for our weekly clubs are available from Eventbrite.  

Follow us on Twitter (@YMCAPaisley) and Instagram (@paisleyymca) for more updates!