HOW DOES FAITH HELP TO SUPPORT POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH & WELLBEING?
Helping young people find strength and resilience to overcome challenges and thrive
Young people today face a host of challenges when it comes to their mental health and wellbeing. From academic pressures and social media use to family issues and financial stress, it is no wonder that anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions are becoming more prevalent among this demographic. However, there is hope for young people who are struggling. By cultivating faith and hope, young people can potentially find the strength and resilience needed to live with, manage or even overcome their challenges and thrive.
One study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health found that around one in five adolescents has experienced a severe mental disorder at some point in their life. This includes conditions like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. These disorders can have a significant impact on a young person's life, affecting their academic performance, social relationships, and overall wellbeing. However, the study also found that many young people who experience mental health challenges can and do recover and go on to lead fulfilling lives.
One way that young people can cultivate hope and resilience is through faith and young people are not as closed off to the concept of faith as we may think. Words like religion, church, even Christian they may struggle with but we shouldn’t confuse this with a complete rejection of all that is spiritual. Research has shown that religious and spiritual practices can have a positive impact on mental health outcomes. For example, one study found that adolescents who are involved with some kind of religious practice at least once a week were less likely to experience depression and anxiety than those who did not. Another study found that prayer and meditation can help reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing. A valid question for faith and school communities would therefore be, how we facilitate and make room for this valuable part of young peoples wellbeing? How do we intentionally build in spaces to pause, to wonder, to be still!
In addition to faith, having a sense of purpose and meaning can also contribute to a young person's mental health and wellbeing. According to the Search Institute, young people who feel that their life has meaning and purpose are more likely to have positive mental health outcomes, including lower rates of depression and anxiety. This is because having a sense of purpose can provide a young person with a sense of direction and motivation, helping them to navigate the challenges of adolescence and beyond.
Finally, social support is also essential for young people who are struggling with mental health challenges. Whether it's friends, family members, or members of a faith community, having a supportive network can help young people feel less isolated and more connected to others. According to the American Psychological Association, social support can help young people cope with stress, reduce the risk of depression, and improve overall wellbeing.
Young people today face many challenges when it comes to their mental health and wellbeing. However, by cultivating faith, hope, and social support, they can find the strength and resilience they need to overcome these challenges and thrive. As one young person said, "Hope is the light that shines in the darkness. When everything seems hopeless, I remind myself that I have the strength to keep going, and that gives me hope."