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Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Joseph Glarner of the Warren Music Conservatory shares ideas developed by his team Thursday during a Whole Health meeting at the Warren County YMCA.

It started as a way to let people know about the mental health benefits of exercise. He had become much more.

Whole Health meetings at the Warren County YMCA have involved many experts in the field of mental health, as well as educators, scout leaders, health care providers and law enforcement.

On Thursday, attendees were divided into groups and asked for their ideas for encouraging young people to engage in activities – existing or new.

That getting out and being part of something – athletics, music, theater, arts, clubs, volunteering, etc. – be good for mental health was not a question.

Groups were more concerned with access and inclusion for all than lack of things to do. There’s a lot of it – from horseback riding to places to make videos and podcasts, sports and music programs, and more.

Some children don’t even know what’s available in their own community, one said.

Offering credit to children who are educated virtually to go to the YMCA to exercise or participate in programs would be a benefit, according to one group.

YMCA officials said they are ready to change a policy that prevents school-age children from being at the Y during school hours and encourages them to come to the Y during those hours instead.

In addition to the three YMCA locations and the Warren Public Library’s under-construction teen space, neutral sites in dispersed areas – fire stations or community centers – were also suggested as places where activities could be offered. youth.

Transportation was a key issue. The groups wanted to provide options for young people, even if their parents were unable to get them where they wanted to be.

“We have to go to the schools when school ends and pick up the children who go wherever they go,” one said.

The groups also talked about how to let people know. Using phones that are already in their hands was the most common response. “We need a (social media) place for all community activities,” one said. “One stop shop for parents” and youth.

There was talk of providing instructions to coaches on how to encourage positive mental health.

The groups also suggested additional people and organizations to add to the guest list for future meetings.

Host Gary Lester was pleased with the results of the encounter.

“We had three meetings” said Lester. “Everyone is in it. You can see the heads nodding every time. You can see the body language.

He said the group’s point was clear – participation improves mental health. And, there are activities available. But, many of those who would benefit from it are either unaware of it or unable to access it.

“We need the menu” said Lester. “So we need access.”

Members talked about creating a checklist of available activities and asking young people to indicate which ones they would like to try, all of which would be available in the county.

Members said it would be important to follow up with those who are not participating in the activities they would like to try to see if there were any barriers the group could help them overcome.

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