Looking back on your own teenage years, you may recall experiencing increased levels of emotional intensity linked to the pressures of fitting in and the opinions of your peers. Couple this with an increased reliance on digital technologies and the pressures of social media and it’s no surprise that youth of today are at a high-risk for developing symptoms of depression.
So high in fact, 1 in 5 young people are struggling with their mental health. Teenagers struggling with depression or anxiety commonly doubt their self-worth and confidence in social situations, with adolescents showing increased sensitivity to negative social interactions.
When we help others through actions that are characterised by a concern for someone’s feelings, rights and welfare, these behaviours are commonly referred to as prosocial behaviours. Prosocial behaviours in youth have been linked to increased self-esteem and positive moods, and there is evidence to suggest that when we offer support to friends and family in need, it can promote physiological changes in the brain linked to our happiness.
“Look for the helpers. You can always find people who are helping.”
- Fred Rogers
- Fred Rogers
The positive effects of engaging in these behaviours can be stronger for teenagers with heightened depressive symptoms. Meaning young people with elevated levels of emotional distress can experience the greatest mood benefits from helping their peers. This improved sense of wellbeing might be the by-product of being more physically or socially active when lending a helping hand.
For young people who experience high levels of social-emotional distress, the opportunity to build close relationships and strengthen social connections can be vital for improving mood and academic performance.
Helping others is one of the ways all of us create, maintain and strengthen our social connections. When we are connected to a goal, community or cause, it can make us feel a sense of belonging as we make new friends and connect more widely with our community. Casting a wider social net through face-to-face activities like participating in sport, art, music or clubs after school, or volunteering support for peers during a difficult time can help young people reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
While we commonly reflect on our teenage years as a time of emotional turmoil and interpersonal conflict, adolescence is also an important period of growth and great social opportunity.
Understanding and identifying the benefits of pro social behaviour during our teenage years can have a long lasting impact on self-esteem and overall wellbeing and make us feel empowered to take on greater responsibility. The benefits that come from the act of helping someone are often felt for the hours, days and sometimes weeks after the act takes place. However the benefits reaped also depend on consistency. The more regularly teenagers engage in supporting others, the more confidence they’ll gain.
When someone feels confident, they feel a sense of purpose. As humans, we can find our purpose in productive and meaningful projects, activities and relationships with family, peers and partners. Studies have shown that having a purpose outside yourself contributes positively to mental health, physical health and living a longer life.
Adolescence is a time of discovery, where young people are figuring out who they are, and start to consider what they want to possibly do as a career. Supporting others during these pivotal years can contribute greatly to one’s overall sense of purpose and identity, which in return can aid in promoting a greater positive self-image and a better sense of direction during the transition into adulthood.
We often don’t realise the impact a different perspective can have on our outlook on life. This is particularly true during our youth when small problems can escalate very quickly into much bigger ones.
The act of supporting others can help young people have a more positive outlook about their own circumstances. Being aware of how others are feeling and the different situations and emotions they may be experiencing can increase feelings of happiness, satisfaction, optimism and a greater sense of empathy.
So while we often discuss the importance of accessing social support when our loved ones are feeling down, there is significant evidence that also highlights the value of providing support to others in need.
That's where we come in.
We created YourCrew to provide a safe digital space for young Australians. Somewhere they can share their feelings with their peers in a non-judgemental, welcoming space and be supported by a network of people they trust.
The young people you are close to can invite their own Crew or join their friend's Crew as a supporter. For all those 'in-between' issues, they can contact their Crew while also having access to third-party links to professional services if needed, and if they're not one to ask for help – their Crew can keep an eye on their moods without them even needing to reach out.
Safety and privacy are a major priority for us, and that’s why Crew members commit to our YourCrew oath. But, it’s important to understand that Crewing for someone is not meant to be overwhelming. We created Pathways to Help to ensure Crew members know where to go, what to say and what to do when helping others. And we have many resources, direct phone numbers and links to professional services that can be activated in-app. When the problem becomes too big for Crew members to manage, they can reach out to their own Crew or professional help instantly through the click of a button.
Chat to the important young people in your life about starting a Crew today.
Learn more about YourCrew
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