If we want students to be well, we need to encourage healthy behaviour instead of just addressing illness. Most proposed solutions on the mental health crisis in youth focuses on crisis response rather than prevention. One antidote to help young people is to connect them to a sense of purpose. In our work with young people, we’ve found three ways to help young people find purpose to improve their mental health.
Helping young people find their sense of purpose starts with having them reflect on what matters most in their lives. Finding patterns in their life experiences helps young people realize their values and beliefs. Reflection allows youth to observe and make sense of their personal story and experiences. In the Reboot Plus program, students write reflective journals, take aptitude tests, and share experiences. Reflection helps them see that they are already bringing value to the world, just as they are today. We are returning that sense of possibility to a group of people who have just about given up on “being” anything.
Take Small Steps Toward Change
Young people struggling with their mental health can find even the smallest act (like hanging out with friends or doing homework) difficult. Inaction inflames mental health challenges, which can lead to a vicious cycle, referred to as the “Inactivity Trap,” where taking action becomes more difficult and mental health worsens.
In the Reboot Plus program, we show youth how to break the inactivity cycle. We look at their overall direction and help them take small steps towards a larger goal. We know the backroads to the supports a young person might need along their journey. This might look like college upgrading, or similar career paths to start their motion. And while our participants work themselves out, they get to talk to people in the industry who will highlight their own bumpy journeys to their current career and role. Our students are encouraged through these interactions realizing that success is not linear.
Connection To Other Students
Reflection and action can help teens clarify their purpose, but a connection to a community is what keeps them going. Students in the Reboot Plus program have fallen out of step with traditional high schools. They are lacking connection and routine. With time and commitment in the program, we find students open up, become more trusting, and make greater strides. As they get to know each other and make friends, they’re more invested in their self-development, and they’re actively participating in their own improvement. They hold each other accountable, which gives them a sense of purpose in their life. They see the positive impact they have on others in the program.
Students of the Reboot Plus program benefit from improved mental health and discovered purpose through these small interventions. We meet the youth where they are, put as little pressure on them as possible, and help them get out of the rut that high school has put them in. The self-reflection, learning about small steps, and connections to others helps them move towards a healthier future.
With funding from the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre, we are examining whether a hope-centred education and career development program can help youth find their purpose.
Le projet Reboot Plus est financé par le Centre des Compétences futures du gouvernement du Canada