There are over one billion young people (aged 10-19) in the world, more than ever before. It’s important to remember this holiday season how difficult it is to be a teenager today. Lack of confidence, low self-esteem, and uncertainty about the future have always been part of adolescence, but this generation is facing different challenges. A recent study by psychologist Dr. Jean M. Twenge posits that smartphones and social media are causing an increase in isolation among teenagers. Rates of cyberbullying, depression and suicide have skyrocketed among this group since 2011, prompting a mental health crisis. Technology is not the only cause, but today’s youth live online in a way that was unfathomable just 20 years ago. Young people are also spending less time with adult family members due to changing family structures, forced displacement (half the world’s refugees are under 18), or migration for education and economic opportunities. Globally, one out of seven youth are unemployed, and one out of six are not in school.
Meanwhile, the teenage brain is still developing, making young people especially vulnerable to destructive behaviors such as substance abuse. Scientists have found that the earlier substance abuse starts, the greater the risk of it leading to substance use disorder.
One Person Can Make a Difference
What can we do to support young people and provide them with the resilience they need for adulthood? Powerful evidence in psychology and neuroscience shows that human connection is tied to our ability to thrive and succeed. Mentoring can be a transformative tool in the lives of young people by providing them with a beneficial adult relationship that supports human connection and prevents destructive behavior. Mentors can contribute to a young person’s confidence and self-esteem, ability to develop stronger social networks and reduce feelings of isolation, and increase integration between different groups in society.
Most everyone can name a mentor they’ve had at some point in their life. It could have been a teacher, a colleague, or an extra adult, but it was likely a life-changing experience. We see youth development as a collective civic responsibility and believe that every young person deserves to have someone they can talk to and look up to. As unbiased adults who are both friend and role model, mentors can inspire young people to look to the future with optimism instead of despair. Mentors let young people know they matter and sometimes an extra, supportive adult can make all the difference.
Mentor International works with our National Member organizations across three continents to create a world where young people are empowered to make healthy decisions and live drug-free. Our programs align with the UN Sustainable Goal 3 to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. See 28 reasons why #MentoringWorks here.
This #GivingTuesday we are asking for your support. It could be a donation, an offer to volunteer with one of our National Members, or interest in becoming a corporate partner.