As June arrives, young people everywhere are thinking about the end of term. Some will be starting university or college; others are entering the workforce.
Lately, I’ve been having conversations with people in their early twenties. Almost every one of them has mentioned their struggles with depression, anxiety, stress, eating disorders, or addictions.
Youth Mental Health
Even before the pandemic, we were hearing worrisome stories about youth and their mental health. And now, three years later, things have only gotten worse.
We’re living in challenging times. The environment, political polarization, the online world, and social injustice — all are factors in the mental health struggles of young people today.
Young people are feeling lost
Young people are feeling burdened and overwhelmed. They’re lost, confused, and stressed. They are more pessimistic than ever. It’s heartbreaking to see.
So, what can parents, teachers, and institutions do to help young people of all ages thrive in this increasingly difficult world?
Let them do more on their own
One suggestion is to give them more opportunities for empowerment.
Let them do more on their own — and from a younger age. Let them figure things out, make mistakes, be frustrated, and even fail. All of these experiences build grit.
When we overprotect and coddle our kids we do them no favours. They need to be more independent and self-motivated in order to feel better about themselves and their lives. They need to see that they can survive disappointment and use it as an opportunity for growth.
Encourage our youth to follow their passion and persevere
Another thing we can do is encourage our youth to strive; to follow their passion and persevere — even if their goals seem impossible to achieve. This builds creativity and resilience.
When young people work hard and stick with things, they gain a sense of mastery. This in turn leads to a greater sense of meaning and purpose in life and it can bring them more fulfillment.
Creativity, resilience, meaning, purpose, and fulfillment are all strongly protective factors for psychological well-being.
Encourage our youth to take more emotional risks
Finally, we should encourage our youth to take more emotional risks — to be open, honest, and vulnerable in their personal relationships and to prioritize in-person interactions over online ones. This builds the capacity for intimacy and could help to significantly relieve stress.
All of these actions are doable and will make a real difference for kids right now and in the future. We need to take the crisis of youth mental health more seriously. It’s our responsibility as the older generation to try and resolve it today.
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