Cultivating Kindness and Nurturing Youth Mental Health

At Psychology Today, Christine O’Connell has writes about loneliness as a factor affecting youth mental health and the importance of kindness, community, and connection: 

“In the midst of a mental health crisis among youth, characterized by rising rates of anxiety, depression, and loneliness, it has never been more important to foster supportive communities, authentic connections, and a culture of kindness. The US Surgeon General warns that loneliness has reached epidemic proportions, affecting individuals of all ages, but perhaps most alarmingly, our children and young people. Meaningful social connections have been shown to have a protective effect on both mental and physical health. The practice of kindness can also catalyze the nurturing of youth mental health, build resilient communities, and foster a sense of belonging and purpose.

The statistics surrounding loneliness among adolescents and young adults paint a sobering picture. According to recent studies, teenagers spent nearly 70% less time with friends in person in 2020 than they did in 2003, dwindling to just 40 minutes per day. Young adults are nearly twice as likely as those over age 65 to feel lonely. Among Generation Z, a staggering 73% reported constantly or sometimes feeling alone. . . . 

Having more opportunities for young people to lead in their schools and communities builds both community and purpose. Non-profit organizations and youth programs have a unique role to play by providing opportunities to elevate the voices of young people. As part of his mental health advisory, US Surgeon Vivek H. Murthy specifically suggests that community-based organizations and foundations should include more spaces for young people to lead. . . . 

At its core, kindness embodies the essence of human connection. Acts of kindness, whether big or small, have the power to bridge gaps between people. Knowing that you are not alone in this world, and that you can work with others to make things better, is empowering. And, kindness has a superpower — it can make you happy. However, a 2023 report released by Born This Way Foundation found that less than half of middle and high school students felt part of a kind community — and the number is dropping. With so many young people lacking a kind community at school, organizations and causes outside of school can play a critical role in building this sense of belonging and purpose by cultivating kind communities.”

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