Huge strides have been made in mental health treatment in the past few decades. Research and new treatments are ongoing and, in some circles, the stigma associated with mental health disorders is dropping over time.
Yet there has been an alarming increase in depression and anxiety among young people. A recent article in The Economist, “Generation Z is Stressed, Depressed and Exam Obsessed,” stated that a full 70% of teens surveyed thought that depression and anxiety was a major problem among their peers. (In case you’re wondering, Generation Z is generally considered to be anyone born since 1997.)
Suicide among young people has also spiked in recent years, and self-harming behaviors are common. As the mother of a young adult on the cusp of Generation Z, I have thought often about this. What is wrong and why are so many young people feeling so despairing and isolated?
Local author Corey Colombin recently wrote an article that will likely resonate with anyone who is involved with school-age children and young adults.
The Broken first appeared in Colorado Serenity Magazine, and I’m including the link here: http://tinyurl.com/y6dohzud. (pps 46-47.) There are no easy answers when it comes to solving the problem, but Corey asks some important questions to start the conversation. I was fortunate to have a conversation on the topic with Corey and am honored to have been asked to contribute some thoughts from my positive psychology “toolbox.” It’s worth the read.
An area that I find hopeful in the field of positive psychology is that of positive education. Positive education, which combines traditional education with evidence-based practices that can increase well-being, is gaining traction.
Jacolyn Norrish, in her book, Positive Education, (2015) states that “The fundamental goal of positive education is to promote flourishing or positive mental health within the school community.” Martin Seligman, one of the founders of the field of positive psychology, developed a program for The Geelong Grammar School in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, that used a more holistic approach to apply positive psychology principles in an educational setting to help decrease depression while encouraging the growth and expansion of student well-being. The program, begun in 2008, has continued to the present day and seeks to support students in developing their strengths and values, and provide tools to enhance life satisfaction.
As psychologist and educator Lea Waters wrote, “A school curriculum that incorporates wellbeing will ideally prevent depression, increase life satisfaction, encourage social responsibility, promote creativity, foster learning, and even enhance academic achievement” (Waters, 2014).
I realize that there isn’t a neat one-size-fits-all solution here, but the addition of a positive education curriculum to learning surely has a chance to be part of the answer.
Thoughts? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.