Therapies — 10 November 2017
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Video: The 10-week surfing program is held at Nobbys Beach in Newcastle (ABC News)

Thoughts used to surge through 16-year-old Newcastle girl Mya Amosa’s head during the depths of her battle with mental illness.

“I feel like the world is against me. I honestly feel that nothing’s right. There’s no point living,” she said, she felt.

After her mother died of cancer a couple of years ago Ms Amosa struggled.

But a surfing program in Newcastle has helped give her a fresh perspective.

Joel Pilgrim and Byron Williams sit on a bench.

Surfing bringing people together

Under a sunny sky and with the constant hiss of waves crashing onto Newcastle’s Nobbys Beach, a group of 10 young people walked eagerly onto the sand, surfboards tucked under their arms.

The Waves of Wellness Foundation and Headspace have been running the 10-week surfing program in a bid to tackle youth mental health.

Along with surfing, they also spend time each week speaking to each other about the issues affecting their mental health.

“A lot of young people, when they are having a tough time, don’t exercise, don’t get outside, don’t hang out with their mates and don’t talk to people,” said Byron Williams from Headspace Newcastle.

“The Waves of Wellness program’s all about bringing those things together.

“Every young person takes something different out of [the program].

“Sometimes some young people don’t even go in the water, but just getting out to the beach and hanging out with a bunch of people and being able to talk about what’s going in their life — that’s the best thing for me.”

A group of people sit on surfboards in a circle.

The CEO of Waves of Wellness Foundation, Joel Pilgrim, said surfing had a way of cleansing the mind.

“Surfing has a way of bringing people together from all different walks of life. But it also has a way of washing away some of the bad things that can be happening in life,” he said.

“Whether you’re going through relationship troubles or you’re going through a really tough time, if you get out in the ocean sometimes you just totally forget about it.

“That’s what we’re down here doing — getting in a connected environment, bringing people together and sharing and normalising mental health in a way that’s fun.”

Lucinda Bates leans against a railing at the beach.

‘Born to stand out’

Lucinda Bates, 16, had battled depression and anxiety, and was part of the surfing program.

“I’ve always found it difficult to find a way to not think about it, de-stress,” she said.

“[Surfing] takes my mind off everything. I’m just able to focus on surfing, the waves, the environment. The fresh air. It really clears my mind.

“It’s really important to just relax, de-stress from school, have that time to yourself, and this program is really important for that.”

Mya Amosa sits on a beach.

For Mya Amosa, she said surfing had helped give her an outlet to improve her mental health.

“[I used to] go for a run, but still [it was] never enough. As soon as I go for a surf it takes my mind off things,” she said.

“I write raps to express how I feel. Even though I surf now there’s heaps of other things I can do to show people what I can do.

“At the end of the night, I know I was here for a reason and I wasn’t born to fit in — I was born to stand out.”

Ms Amosa said she had gained a fresh perspective on life.

“It’s like all the problems are left behind me and I’m living life how I want to,” she said.

“Life is always hard. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes.

“Sometimes you just need to dig a bit deeper and just do what you love. There’s nothing wrong with trying new things.”

Surfboards lie on a beach while people speak in the background.
This piece by Robert Virtue was first seen on ‘ABC News’ 9 November 2017.

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