The YOLO Project

Teaching skills for Valued Living at the University of Queensland

In our last post we congratulated Professor Kenneth Pakenham on his recent national award for outstanding contribution to student learning. Dr Pakenham received this award for creating and implementing a program that teaches Acceptance and Commitment Therapy based self-care skills into the UQ undergraduate psychology student program. Learning these ACT skills helped the students handle the pressure of their studies and enables them to teach these skills to others.

Another exciting and innovative program Dr. Pakenham is involved in is the ‘YOLO project’. Short for ‘You Only Live Once’, the project’s name plays upon the idea that you should make your one life count. The driving force being the project is Shelley Viskovich, a UQ School of Psychology researcher. Mrs. Viskovich spent ten years as a practicing therapist before commencing a pHd at UQ. The YOLO project aims to teach UQ students the psychological flexibility skills they need to ‘manage stress and increase wellbeing’. The program involves only four modules of 40 minutes duration each – completed online – allowing for progress to be paused at any time.

The YOLO program is hoping to promote mental health and valued living in University of Queensland students and draws upon a wealth of university and other context based ACT research. Early interventions like this one have shown very promising results. Small interventions done early can have very significant cumulative mental health outcomes by helping people learn the skills they need before they need them. Developing resilience and flexibility before the storms of University stressors may hit. Creating programs that act as preventatives also can help with the stigma associated with looking for help.

In just 24 hours of the YOLO program received an extraordinary 2000 student enrolments. A pilot study has shown very positive results for participants across a range of mental health areas, including stress, depression, anxiety, self compassion and life satisfaction. Dr Pakenham and colleagues hope to have the data for a randomised controlled trial available by the end of 2016, to be submitted for peer-reviewed publication early in the New Year.

The YOLO program is a truly exciting application of ACT psychological flexibility clinical psychology skills practice and research to boost UQ students valued living. We hope that it may further strengthen present evidence that mental health skills can be both taught and learned universally, briefly, and online. See here for further details.

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