YWCA Canberra wins Mental Health Week award

8 October 2014

photo 1YWCA Canberra’s innovative Y-Aspire program for girls was recognised this week in the 2014 ACT Mental Health Week Awards.

It was rewarded for its success in helping to prevent mental illness in young women, picking up the award for ‘Promotion, Prevention and Early Intervention – Organisation’.

Y-Aspire is an early intervention leadership program to support young women in years 7 and 8 of high school who are at risk of disengaging with education. The strengths-based program aims to build skills and confidence that will assist girls in their journey through high school and beyond.

The program addresses the issues of identity, personal skills and skill building, body confidence, respectful relationships and career pathways. It focuses on helping young women build a strong connection to schooling through an integrated learning program. It allows girls a gender-exclusive safe space to explore issues relevant to their journey towards womanhood.

Y-Aspire uses a combination of interactive activities and discussions. It builds skills and confidence, supports participants to identify and achieve their goals, encourages girls to engage in activities that create greater awareness of who they are, encourages future aspirations, and promotes questioning of norms and expectations that may conflict with their aspirations.

Some of the comments girls made on their feedback forms after the program were:

“No one judges.”

“The thing I enjoyed most about the group was all the nice girls.”

“I liked the support from the group most.”

“I feel safe.”

“I liked most of the people and I know I’m not alone.”

“I’m like everyone else.”

“I am beautiful.”

“I liked that [the facilitators] understood things that other people couldn’t.”

“I loved how we can just be ourselves and I didn’t like how it stopped.”

“I like the fact that everyone has a chance to talk and everyone listens.”

“Everyone can be honest and themselves.”

“Nobody judged, it was a really happy and friendly environment and good advice.”

“I could speak my mind.”


The feedback also revealed an increased sense of self:

“I learnt to respect myself.”

“I can do more on my own.”

“I believe I can do better and I am more confident.”

“I am allowed to fail.”

“… to accept myself, enjoy life, be optimistic, be how I want to be.”


Through advocacy for these students within the school community, Y-Aspire adds to understanding of the benefits of early intervention in helping to prevent long-term mental health problems.

Y-Aspire continues to be a sought after program, with four schools currently registered for the program up to the end of this year.

Image: Jan Skeyhill, Manager of Mura Lanyon Youth & Community Centre, and Frances Crimmins, Executive Director, accepting the ACT Mental Health Week award on behalf of YWCA Canberra.

Read more about Y-Aspire.

Find out about Mental Health Week in the ACT.

If this article has raised any issues or concerns for you, visit Lifeline.


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