This year Rebecca Rylands is participating in an event called Laps for Life in support of a very important cause – youth mental health and suicide prevention. Her goal is to swim 10km by the end of March.
Rebecca is a 37-year-old mother of two living in Holland Park. She has worked with youth in different ways over the past ten years and is a stage of the life cycle that she feels passionate about helping.
“I want to raise awareness about youth mental health in a positive way. I hope that with more funding going into this area, it will provide better access for all young people who would like to receive support.”
Rebecca’s interest in youth mental health started during her youth in a small rural town in New Zealand, Hokitika, on the West Coast of the South Island.
“Having access to information and resources that cross geographic and socio-economic barriers is important, so that youth can get to accurate information and support no matter where they live.”
“Another formative experience in my youth was taking part in an intercultural high school exchange to a Latin American country, Panama, for a year when I was 17 years old. It opened my eyes to how youth in different cultures are validated and supported in various ways. Even though it could be perceived that youth in more affluent countries, like Australia and New Zealand, have more opportunities, it seemed to me that the pressure to know what you want to do for a career, and a sense of needing to make something of yourself, was higher where I was from.”
Rebecca said it still makes her sad to think that a number of her high school classmates died suddenly in accidents or by suicide in the year or two after finishing high school.
“The effects on those bereft by suicide are long lasting and feelings of grief can be complicated. If we can do anything as individuals, and as a society, to ensure those young people who are in need of extra supports get them in a timely, and youth appropriate way, it could make a world of difference.”
Rebecca started swimming laps as an adolescent and then stopped competitive swimming when academic pressures increased in her last two years of high school. Since then, she has had periods of swimming for enjoyment and fitness.
“As a mum to two young children, it has not been easy for me to find the time to do laps regularly over the past few years. Through taking on this challenge I am making a commitment to help youth, and simultaneously, role-modelling what it looks like to spend time on self-care.”
“I find swimming really therapeutic. Getting into the rhythm of breathing and utilising repetitive body movements can be excellent tools for calming the mind. Exercise is one of the well-known ways you can improve mental wellbeing. Clinical studies show that it is as effective as medication for treating mild to moderate mental health issues.”
Rebecca says Laps for Life can be a solitary pursuit, or you can join a team.
“I chose to undertake the challenge on my own because day-to-day commitments can change very quickly with my parenting and work responsibilities. I try to fit in a swim where and when I can – Mt Gravatt East Pool, Langlands, and Griffith University Aquatic and Fitness Centre.”
“Since wearing the goggles and swimming cap sent to me by the organisers, it has started conversations with others who are doing the challenge too.”
“A lovely group of lifeguards at the Mt Gravatt East Pool are part of a team and they are accepting donations from the community at the front desk. Swimming is a fairly low-cost activity, with entry to most council pools being between $5 – 6 for an adult.”
Rebecca recommends five simple and effective ways to improve your wellbeing:
- Develop relationships with those around you.
- Be Active. Find an activity you enjoy and make it a part of your life.
- Keep Learning. Trying new things will make you more confident and give you a sense of achievement.
- Be Aware. Take notice of the things in your environment. Try mindfulness or another awareness-building practice that suits you.
- Help Others. Contribute positively to those around you and notice how it makes others feel. A part of your brain is activated when you do random acts of kindness, show generosity, or act altruistically.
Join in or add your support
5,800 lappers are taking part in the challenge to date. There is still time to join them, or you can donate to individuals or teams involved in the challenge.
Find out more at the official website www.lapsforlife.com.au and follow Rebecca’s journey here www.lapsforlife.com.au/fundraisers/rebeccarylands/laps-for-life or donate directly to ReachOut.com.
Musgrave Park Pool says they are always happy to support local charities and fundraisers, so if you want to do your laps there, contact them about how they can help.
Rebecca Rylands is a Youth Mental Health First Aider, registered counsellor and teacher. Her interest areas are adolescence, women’s health and using music therapy in addition to traditional talk-based therapies.