New Program Helps Young People Connect

Erin Higgins and Blake McGee have set up a special support group for young people suffering from mental illness. Picture by Mark Scott

Suffering or recovering from a mental illness can be a very isolating experience, especially for young people, but Central Coast ARAFMI is determined to change that with its new Thrive program.

Spearheaded by peer worker Erin Higgins, the organisation has launched the social meeting group, aimed at people aged between 18 and 36.

“I have been in hospital myself for anxiety and depression and relocated to the Central Coast two years ago,” Ms Higgins said.

“I found there was no peer group for people my age and felt very much alone. Mental illness is very hard to explain to your friends — you often find they move on with their lives and you lose that peer support.”

Now employed by ARAFMI, Ms Higgins, 28, is setting out to change that.

“Young people who are living with a mental illness want to meet other young people and do the things we all enjoy,” she said.

Establishing friendships

“The aim of this group is to establish friendships and get these young people out in the community doing the things they like to do.”

Ms Higgins said examples of the activities that group members could undertake included pub trivia, cooking classes, surfing lessons and bowling, with outings catered to the wishes of the group.

“We want to discover people’s hobbies, interests and passions, and help them reconnect with those,” she said.

Running the group with Ms Higgins is support worker Blake McGee, who has had a range of experi­ences working with Coast Shelter and the Central Coast Disability Network.

“I think with my support background and Erin’s own experiences of mental health issues we make a good team,” Mr McGee said.

“We see ourselves as facilitators promoting independence.”

The group will begin with regular meetings at ARAFMI’s Narara headquarters, housed in a beautifully renovated historic homestead, and progress to group outings.

The group will meet on the first Saturday and third Wednesday of each month.

“We plan to do lots of weekend activities because that’s when young people really want to be out and about,” Ms Higgins said.

If you are aged 18-36 and are suffering or recovering from a mental illness, call ARAFMI on 4323 7731.


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