Wellness program is changing lives for Wigan teenagers
The brand new initiative, introduced at Wigan Youth Zone in January, saw teenagers take part in weekly workouts to improve their mental wellbeing, supported by Banish, the UK’s first exercise app designed to improve their mental health .
It was inspired by a local man’s own mental health journey. Former Leigh Centurion player and app founder Jamie Acton has battled his own demons over the years, which has led him to try to raise awareness of the impact of mental health issues.
Since completing the initial six-week program, young people have reported feeling more confident, happier in themselves and able to relate better to others around them.
Caitlyn, 16, from Wigan, found the experience life-changing: “It really helped me gain confidence. I don’t think or care as much about what other people think anymore.
“Before, I was very nervous and overthinking everything, it was quite lonely, but now I have a lot of people to talk to.
“These sessions and using the Banish app at home have had a really huge impact on my life. At first I didn’t really think it was something that was going to make a big difference, but it impressed me has changed and I feel good about myself.
“My mental health has improved and I didn’t realize how much it would help me to exercise even more. I had played football regularly before, but using Banish and the check-in feature with the app to assess my mental well-being before and after training really helped me realize how much of a difference it makes.
Caitlyn now uses the Banish app three to four times a week.
She added: “I have now decided, after watching Jamie, that I would like to be a personal trainer. I always hoped to become a teacher, but combining that element with sport is going to be my path now.
Adam, 14, from Wigan, said the sessions had eased his anxiety: “I didn’t come here to improve my mental health, but I had anxiety, and it really helped me and boosted my trust.
“I had trouble talking to people and communicating. I think the pandemic made this even more difficult, as I spent a lot of time online and less time communicating in real life.
“Doing an activity like this that gets me out of the house and increases my communication has helped me. I’m going to keep practicing to feel better.”
The program has proven to be so successful that Wigan Youth Zone plans to make Banish sessions a daily event so that even more young people can attend.
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Hannah Jenkins, health and wellbeing coordinator at Wigan Youth Zone, said: “We have young people who have come to the session with all sorts of mental health issues, lots of people with social anxiety and people struggling with depression. .
“You can really see a difference in how they interact in this program space, in the Youth Zone in general, with their peers and outside of the center as well. It opened a lot of doors for them and we learn a lot more about this group of young people.
“Giving them the tools, through the Banish app, to empower themselves to do this on their own is such an important step and something they’ve never had before. You can really see the difference between them all.
The partnership began after Jamie Acton, founder of Banish, approached Wigan Youth Zone, believing young people at the center could benefit from increased physical activity to support their own mental wellbeing – particularly after months of lockdown and a reduction in organized group sports.
Jamie said: “When we started these sessions the youngsters were quite withdrawn, anxious and calm.
“I start the sessions with a check-in to see how everyone is feeling and, to begin with, most of the participants were giving feedback with quite high numbers, showing that they were perhaps feeling very anxious, or tired. or even depressed.
“Now the sessions are starting with more positive numbers, and it really shows the progression of this group of youngsters.
“It has been a pleasure to see the growth of the group and to hear how the sessions and the use of the app have really helped them improve their mental health, both inside and outside the zone. youth.
“It just shows the power of regular exercise and movement. That’s the main reason we launched Banish.
“When I retired from rugby, I fell into a very negative spiral of depression and even suicidal thoughts. Exercise really helps me manage my mental well-being, and I hope we now have transmitted this tool to a new group of young people.”
The first app of its kind, Banish focuses on training with the sole purpose of improving the mental health and well-being of users, rather than focusing on their fitness level or physical appearance.
The Workout for your Wellbeing scheme comes after Sport England released its Active Lives Children and Young People Survey report for the 2020-21 academic year in December. The report shows that over the 2020-2021 period, the activity levels of secondary school-aged children fell by around 4% year-on-year.
The report shows that children who are more active (those who do more than 60 minutes of activity on average per day) feel happier than those who are less active, they are more likely to report a positive attitude and to have an association more positive with personal development.
Additionally, the report found that Lancashire was among the counties with the lowest levels of active children, with 40.01% to 44% averaging more than 60 minutes of activity per day.