According to teenmentalhealth.org, it is a staggering reality that around one in five young people suffer from a mental health problem today. This equates to approximately 20% of the youth in America. Despite this fact, less than 4% of the US healthcare budget is dedicated to treating mental illnesses.
The good news is that experts are realizing that there are other ways—sometimes in replacement of, or in conjunction with, medication—to assist teenagers with nurturing and maintaining their mental wellbeing. One of these ways is through non-parent mentoring. The question is, why does a non-parent mentor have such a dramatically positive impact on a teenager’s mental state? What are the benefits? And how can healthcare professionals get involved? The answers to these questions, and more, can be found below.
The benefits of non-parent mentors for teens
It goes without saying that both children and teenagers learn by example, which is why it can be extremely beneficial to have positive adult influences in their life, outside of their parental figures. They naturally observe and model certain behaviors, and a positive adult mentor can assist in demonstrating right and wrong, and helping to guide young, impressionable teens along a successful, productive path. Other benefits of non-parent mentors for teens include:
- Blossoming social skills: With good social skills, teens will learn how to politely interact and communicate with adults outside of their family, as well as learn how to form close connections with others who may not be very similar to them.
- Tackle life’s challenges with confidence: Sometimes, it helps to know that somebody else has “been there and done that” or “been there and overcome that.” Being a teenager can seem extremely lonely when you are under the impression that nobody understands you or that whatever you are going through is unique to you. An adult mentor can assist the teen in realizing that most young people go through challenges and uncertainties, but that it is possible to rise above it and come out a better person.
- Meaningful conversation: A non-parent mentor might engage the teenager in meaningful discussions regarding important topics such as careers, education, or relationships. These conversations can facilitate in boosting a teen’s wisdom and decision-making skills in these regards. In many instances, teens will discuss specific matters with a non-parent mentor that they may not feel comfortable talking to their parents about.
- Improved self–regulation: By spending time with a non-parent mentor, a teen will observe how he or she effectively managed their emotions and impulses, particularly when interacting with other people. This can work towards strengthening self-regulation within the teen themselves and encourage them to think before they speak or act—a valuable life skill, both personally and professionally!
- Help with developing an identity: Most trained non-parent mentors will focus a great deal of effort on helping a teen identify and embrace their own unique identity. In a world where peer pressure is rife and being different is frowned upon, it’s more important than ever to teach teens that they are fantastic just the way they are. Non-parent mentors can also teach teens to be curious about getting to know others, especially those who seem to be a lot different than them.
- New ways of thinking: Mentors will show teens how to think and see their problems in a different light. This can encourage resourcefulness and resilience, as well as teach teens to grab the opportunities that come their way.
- Foster self-belief and self-confidence: A large number of teenagers will struggle with low self-esteem and may doubt their natural instincts and abilities at first. This can hold them back from reaching their potential quite significantly. A non-parent mentor can help to foster a stronger sense of self-belief and self-confidence from an early age.
How can healthcare professionals get involved?
It’s important for healthcare professionals to be aware of how a young teen might come into contact with a wise and trustworthy mentor. For example, they should know where teen mentoring programs are offered, such as teen mentoring in Thousand Oaks via Bridge the Gap, and have a good understanding of how these programs and/or services work.
Understanding the benefits of non-parent teen mentoring and properly referring teens who might thrive in such a partnership is a great approach that healthcare professionals can take in order to maximize mental health within the youth population in the United States. It is time that mental health became—and remained—a top priority, and it starts here.