According to statistics, depression is prevalent among American teens, especially among girls, wherein 13.7% of them belong to the age group between 12 and 17 years. This means one out of five teen girls had one major depressive episode once in their life.
To highlight the fact that the youth needs support, mentoring, and guidance more than ever, here is an in-depth discussion of why professional youth support is crucial.
What Are Youth Support Services?
Youth support services provide young people with counseling, mentorship, and economic and academic opportunities. The youth who often qualify for this are at risk of several factors that allow them to qualify for youth support services. These risks factors include:
- Involvement in crimes
- Drug abuse
- Domestic violence
- Sexual abuse
- Poor mental health
- Drug addiction
Youth support services aim to support these vulnerable youth within in the age group between 8 and 25. It helps them reconnect with their families or community, placing them into a safer and more stable environment. These services often collaborate with academic institutions and provide the following:
- Personal counseling sessions
- Individual support (casework)
- Referral to other professional help such as therapy
- Projects and activities that promote health and well-being
- Job opportunities
Moreover, the services mentioned above help these youth with:
- Legal problems
- Economic opportunities
- Academic support
- Mental health
- Family violence
Again, the general purpose is to place them in a more positive and stable environment, whether this requires therapy sessions, mentorship, or counseling.
Importance Of Youth Support Services
New research reveals that trauma in childhood is directly related to chronic depression in later life. This supports the fact that youth support services are important. Some of the factors that may contribute to poor mental health are:
- Chronic stress
- Identity issues
- Family dysfunction
Not addressing mental health issues can be dangerous. This is evident from data from the World Health Organization, which states that “close to 800,000 people commit suicide every 40 seconds“, thus making suicide the leading cause of death among people 15 to 29 years old.
The numbers are quite alarming, especially since this group is mostly comprised of teens to young adults. Hence, mental health needs to be addressed as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of them turning to harmful habits like drug abuse or self-harm.
Self-harm, low-self-esteem and poor mental health are all risk factors for suicide. Other factors include:
- History of suicide in the family
- Previously attempted suicide
- Mental disorders such as anxiety and depression
- Feelings of hopeless or loneliness
- Aggressive and impulsive tendencies
- Unsocial attitude or the feeling of being cut off from others
- Physical ailments
- Relational, personal or financial loss
- Substance abuse
- Childhood trauma
- Uncaring parents
Protective measures for mental health and suicide can only be executed if the situation is recognized promptly. Parents or loved ones who are aware of the difficult environment the affected person is in must consult with youth support services immediately.
Moreover, protective measures in the form of youth support services are important since you only seek help for mental health in therapy. However, youth support, like Portneuf Valley Family Center’s youth support groups, provides these protective measures through the following:
- Supportive Environment: Feelings of loneliness can occur if an individual is friendless, avoids social interaction or is detached from their family. Hence, in a supportive environment, this individual’s boundary will be respected.
They will not be forced to speak up. Instead, they will be made to feel safe. Being in a safe environment will assure them that no one can harm them. Moreover, supportive environments will help them share their experiences without being judged.
They will also be indulged in activities that will help them recognize their true talent, which will help boost their self-esteem.
- Community: Sometimes, the youth are ashamed of their experience. They’re not encouraged to speak up and instead end up bottling up their feelings. Being in a community of people with similar experiences will remove instances of feeling judged.
They’ll feel that they belong to a place where their voice will be heard. They won’t be mocked for their differences or eccentric attitudes, and will instead be understood why they think or behave in a certain way. They’ll understand that they’re not the only one, and that there are many people like them, which can help them find comfort in this knowledge.
- One-To-One Counselling Session: For sensitive cases, one-to-one counselling sessions will be provided to those who aren’t comfortable sharing their stories within a group, and for those who need intensive care and therapy sessions to help them deal with their mental health and traumatic experiences.
Sometimes, an individual feels embarrassed and may blame themselves for their experiences or loss. Hence in such cases, one-to-one counselling will give them the confidence to speak up and seek reliable guidance while their boundaries are respected.
Signs Of Low Self-Esteem Or Poor Mental Health
Low self-esteem in the youth only motivates negative emotions about their self-worth. They start to value themselves less and show these signs:
- Not stepping out of their comfort zone to take new opportunities
- Unsociable and unable to make new friends
- Feeling unwanted or unloved
- Not being able to handle frustration or frustrating situations
- Comparing themselves to others and being negative about their traits, such as their appearance or achievements
- Mixed levels of anxiety, stress, or show signs of mood swings
- Fear of embarrassment or failure
- Using “I am” statements
- Boasts about themselves; narcissistic in nature
- Poor sibling relationship
- Blaming others for making mistakes
- Walking with their head down
- Does not make eye contact
- Not being able to connect with family members
- Avoids physical contact
- Not being able to express themselves properly
- Irritability or aggressiveness
- Apologizes quite often
- Avoids gatherings or social situations
Addressing Challenges Faced By The Youth
Addressing these challenges will improve their mental and emotional stability, and they can divert their energy to hone their skills, which will help uncover their potential, directing them to be leaders who will be the future of their community.
Moreover, they’ll be able to spend more time thinking about their future careers or investing in their education rather than fighting emotional battles, whether these battles are at home due to a dysfunctional family or at school due to bullying. Other external factors may include:
- A traumatic experience in their childhood
- Sexual abuse or harassment
- Domestic violence
- Poor performance at school
- Life-long medical issues
- Mood disorders such as bipolar disorder
- Friends who are not a good influence
- Unsupportive social circle
Such factors can greatly reduce the self-esteem of a young person, especially if they haven’t sought out therapy or help. Such low self-esteem, paired with uncaring parents, can lead to these youth to live a disturbed life. They might indulge in drug abuse, crime, less productivity, etc., which further leads them to question their self-worth. Only professional help can guide them in addressing these issues, helping them make better life choices, understanding that they belong to a community, and that they, too, are entitled to their own stories and feelings.
Not being able to share these feelings or their stories in confidence will create a lot of emotional baggage. This emotional baggage can affect their emotional well-being and mental health. Having a sense of belonging is a very important factor for a human being as it helps them manage stress.
Youth support can boost their sense of belonging and settle with families who will care. Moreover, there are youth support centers that are designed to have group activities in an effort to promote a sense of community and belonging. They encourage social interaction with people with similar stories so they can learn how to tackle these issues and not feel alone.
Unveiling Reserves Of Potential
Young leaders will change the world—they are our future. This is evident from exemplars like Malala Yousafzai who was 17 years old when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for being an advocate for education in Pakistan. She stood against all the odds, like other young leaders who are creating a better world.
Unrelentless emotional support from their family was given to these young leaders to reach their goals. Parental emotional support from a family is very important for a child’s self-esteem. It leads them to develop a “can-do” attitude in their childhood as their parents encourage them to achieve their full potential.
Unfortunately, not many youths are born in a setting where they have emotional support. They’re in challenging conditions that lead them to have a disturbing life. Hence, professional help is needed to set them on the right path. It will then increase the possibility of them seeking their full potential. Young individuals with support and guidance might uncover new reserves of potential and could even leave a mark in history, much like Malala Yousafzai.
According to the United Nations, the youth is a smart investment that will enable a society to be sustainable. Hence, investing on their wellness can decrease the number of suicides, crime, and drug abuse, leading to a more progressive and healthy society.
Placing these youth to a support program will help them with their emotional well-being and mental health issues. It will prepare them for a challenging world ahead and help them uncover new reserves of potential that might make them a world leader.