Marymead helps the youngest clients adapt to virtual mental health services

Marymead team members Carley Thomas, Felicia Hewlett and Annabelle Jeffries have created flexible online programs to ensure that their services are still provided to those who need it most.

Marymead team members, including Carley Thomas, Felicia Hewlett and Annabelle Jeffries, have created flexible online programs to ensure that their services are still provided to those who need it most. Photo: Region Media.

From scavenger hunting to yoga, Marymead psychiatric doctors are finding new ways to get in touch with their younger clients in the virtual world.

As school children spend more time than ever watching screens during lockdown, the challenge for psychiatric clinician Felicia Hewlett under the COVID-19 restrictions has been to find ways to keep her young clients engaged and physically active.

“I work mainly with children in primary school, so I have had to tailor the online sessions to what the client needs, while at the same time making them fun,” Felicia said.

“We do yoga and progressive muscle relaxation to help with anxiety.

“Play like Simon says can really help make progressive muscle relaxation fun and kid-friendly when online.

“For emotional regulation, we’ve introduced treasure hunts where the client has to find something that makes them feel happy, silly, frustrated or calm when they feel bored, and we talk about those feelings.”

Felicia says that treasure hunting gets kids off their chairs and gets their legs moving, while allowing for the development of cognitive skills, including planning, attention-shifting, and flexible thinking.

“Scavenger hunts are highly adaptable and can incorporate therapeutic goals, but most importantly, they are simply fun – and opportunities for fun are never enough during lockdown,” she added.

Manager of Mental Health and Wellness Carley Thomas said the number of children under the age of 11 referred to Marymead has increased over the past three years and the team strives to provide accessible solutions to young people as well as their families and caregivers.

“Working with young children is even more challenging online, but we’ve been able to be innovative with how we do it,” she said.

“We work with families to build relationships and reduce the impact of moving from face to face to online support.”

Carley says many children have gone backwards during the lockdowns, so where possible, some clinicians have also been able to conduct one-on-one outdoor walking sessions with their clients that provide important exercise and vitamin D.

Marymead has also created virtual therapy rooms that clinicians can use during sessions with their clients and that young people can access on their own at any time.

Team leader Annabelle Jeffries said the online site gives children access to a variety of resources such as quizzes, games and links they can use outside of therapy if they feel lonely, anxious or sad.

But lockdowns have seen some positive results for clients, as face-to-face meetings in parks or largely at home have made some children feel more secure.

“Using her device, a client took me to a pillowcase she had made, and because she brought me into her world, she was able to open up more than ever,” Annabelle said.

“Although the lockdown is tough, the therapeutic benefits have actually increased in some ways.”

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Felicia said that with many lockdown parents working from home, clinicians’ opportunities to connect with family members have also increased.

“One parent shared with me the difficulties and financial difficulties they faced during the lockdown so I was able to figure out what they needed and get in touch with other services to find the extra support,” he said. she.

Marymeads New Horizons program

Marymead’s New Horizons program is a holistic service for young people and their families. Photo: Marymead.

Marymead’s New Horizons program provides early intervention and outreach mental health services to children and adolescents.

The service provides support and education to children, their family members, teachers and other important supports.

The observed need for New Horizons can be detected through 60 to 80 percent of the children on their waiting list, showing symptoms of anxiety and depression that are often reflected by their caregiver.

Marymead is partnering with ACT Health and the Office of Mental Health to roll out a new youth mental health portal in October.

The one-stop shop will help young people access information and navigate Canberra’s mental health sector.

Since 1967, Marymead has provided a range of high quality family support services to children, young people and their families.

With offices in Canberra and NSW in Goulburn, Moruya, Young and Wagga Wagga, Marymead’s programs and services include child and family counseling, early intervention programs, foster families, and shift services for separated parents in significant conflicts.

Marymead also offers innovative, person-centered support services for people with disabilities and their families. These services include short-term stays, after-school and school holidays, skills development, recreation groups and home support.

Young people and their families who are struggling can seek help by calling 6162 5800 or through the Marymead website.

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