Our Young People
As societal systems continue to decay and crumble, we have a unique opportunity to transform our relationships with young people. It’s a choice whether we complain about youth today or take action to create a meaningful world.
Perhaps by directly involving youth in shaping our future, can we foster generations of conscious creators driven by a sense of purpose? And by doing so, we lead with experimentation rather than force and control.
Did you know that suicide among young people is almost twice as high on Mondays during the school year compared to summer break? Children’s risk of suicide increases on school days. And this is not new.
Teen suicide rates increased dramatically from 1940 to 1992 before experiencing a downturn until 2007. This pattern was evident even before the sharp increase in adolescent mental health issues around 2012. Once teens leave high school, the seasonal pattern of suicides ceases, further supporting the idea that school attendance plays a role in mental health.
Currently, young people may feel they have much to offer the world. But they often face a disconnect when it comes to what the world offers them in return. It can be difficult to adapt to a society that may not be functioning in a healthy way. Instead of trying to force young people to fit into broken systems, why are we not questioning and taking action to improve the health of society itself?
Although we often consider young people as our future, we rarely create environments that nurture their curiosity and encourage questioning. What can happen if focus on fostering connections, relationships, and a sense of community for our youth? Mindset is everything.
Nurturing Purpose, Connection, and Mental Health
Instead of simply blaming entitlement or social media for the rise in depression, suicide, and bullying among young people, can we address the root causes? Mental health issues are finally gaining attention, but are we truly understanding and addressing the core problems?
Regulating social media is not the only answer when the core structures we have built are broken. What about getting to the root of the question: in our current world, what role do parents and society play in raising healthy kids? And what is the role of other institutions —education, government, corporations, nonprofits—in the mental health of our young people?
Michael Strong is leading the way in what is possible when it comes to younger people. He shows us that increasing youth’s sense of connection at school can significantly reduce the rate of attempted suicide. The importance of human connection cannot be overstated. Research also indicates that having a sense of purpose leads to better well-being and helps individuals navigate life without being overly influenced by external events.
Young people with a strong sense of purpose are healthier, and all youth can discover their own purpose to address opportunities instead of problems. Unfortunately, most educational institutions do not prioritize this aspect of development.
According to Michael, a sense of purpose leads not only to a meaningful life but also to actions that align with that purpose. When young people perceive tasks like homework as meaningless, they may complete them merely for a grade, rather than experiencing a genuine sense of purpose.
Do we have an opportunity to raise and infuse our young people with purpose and open dialogue? Can we create environments that cultivates meaning, curiosity, and connection? And in doing so, can we ultimately identify the opportunities to engage them in shaping the future? And what is our part in charting a healthy path by simply beginning to create healthy systems that support us?
Maybe we can create ways for generations to co-exist in harmony and break patterns of division?