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Let's make teens' mental health 1st priority

While depression and anxiety levels are out the roof - it is imperative to build our teens’ understanding of self and self-efficacy, so that what’s out there becomes of secondary importance

Thousands of years ago our ancestors lived in a reality of fight, flight or freeze. These animalistic instincts were crucial for their survival. Today our instincts are a backbone, a self. The way we see it, we still practice the same methodology, only now freeze means giving in to whatever happens, flight is shutting out of this world completely, and fight is growing an inner self.

Finding your purpose as a means to fight depression

Depression is especially common among teens, with up to 20% of adolescents experiencing a major depressive episode in the past year. Following the Covid-19 outbreak, these numbers skyrocketted - with a 31% increase in mental health-care emergency department visits between October 2019 and October 2020.

Abraham Maslow, the father of Humanistic Psychology, claimed that it’s within human nature to seek the fulfilment of our potential. When familiar with yourself, your emotions, thoughts and perceptions, it is easier to understand your strengths and weaknesses alongside your desires and targets.

We suggest that the key to overcoming depression is exploring the inner and individual self, therefore strengthening the sense of purpose and designing a path for self fulfilment. The purpose, or the connection between people’s actions and a desired outcome, makes them build trust in life and reduces the chance to fall into depression.

Believing in yourself as a means to fight anxiety

When the absence of stability is impossible to ignore - anxiety thrives. The feeling of fear about what's to come is only natural when you feel like things are out of your control, but what if control has nothing to do with what’s out there?

In 1977, Albert Bandura, known as the originator of the social cognitive theory and described as the greatest living psychologist, first demonstrated the term Self Efficacy, the connection between one’s belief in their capacity and their final performance. Self Efficacy also influences one’s motivation to take on a task (or avoid it) and his motivation to make an effort. We see Self Efficacy as a major tool to decrease stress and anxiety levels, allowing one’s confidence in his own skills and capacities to become their anchor in a volatile reality.

Bandura indicated four ways to increase Self Efficacy:

  1. First and most important is experience, gained by taking on new challenges.

  2. Inspiration from positive role models - teachers, parents or other mentors.

  3. Positive feedback.

  4. Attention to emotional and physical well being.

Can learning become a means to self-exploration and self-belief?

Bringing both Maslow and Bandura’s visions down to earth and fast forward a few decades, we believe that the connection to self, plus the development of Self Efficacy, could be supported through learning. What if teenagers were exposed to a variety of domains and professions, therefore getting a variety of opportunities to explore their interests, test their limits and discover their advantages and disadvantages? Moreover, what if teens’ Self Efficacy was nurtured, learning through real world experience while receiving feedback from positive role models?

As of today, absolutely no one can claim to predict what tomorrow will look like.

Your degree might be worthless, your skills might be useless, but the inner self and the self efficacy, and the confidence and strength they carry within them, will come in handy no matter what the world becomes.

The author is the Co-Founder and CEO of ReShuffle, a global, holistic e-learning platform.

Co-writer: Rona Bunzel, 11th grader and content lead at ReShuffle.

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