National Mentoring Month
January is National Mentoring Month. Mentors have a lot to offer and positive mental health is among the benefits they provide.
The word “mentor” often generates images of a guide, teacher or instructor. Pop culture icons like Yoda, Mr. Miyagi or Marry Poppins may come to mind. These are great examples of mentors. One thing they all have in common is that they built personal relationships with their mentees.
Mentoring relationships can be based on a specific goal, like helping someone train for a career or an athletic skill. They can also be more generally focused to aid the development of another, usually younger, person.
Some mentors are gained by formal means, through a program like Aging UP, for instance. However, other mentors become so by simply being themselves. These natural mentors are often family members, teachers, coaches, neighbors, church members, etc. An ideal mentor is caring and committed. They share their life, experience, knowledge and time. They develop a relationship.
While mentees are not always younger than their mentors, it is incredibly important for children and teens to have positive relationships with others, especially adults. It’s not only a way to learn, it is necessary for mental health.
The Unites States Department of Health and Human Services defines mental health as, “…our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.” (mentalhealth.gov)
It makes sense that strong mental health is especially important for children and teens as they are learning to navigate more responsibilities and situations. These changes can cause stress, anxiety and other challenges.
According to a study, the strongest benefit of mentoring for youth was a reduction in depressive symptoms. Mentors help young people feel secure and give them visibility by listening. They provide space for a young person to share their thoughts and emotions, their dreams and their challenges. Mentors can also open worldviews and introduce young people to new opportunities.
All of these benefits essentially mean that mentors enhance a young person’s resilience. And here’s where the magic happens. When a young person is resilient, they recover quickly from difficulties -- they have stronger mental health.
No matter our age, of course, we all benefit from healthy relationships. However, it’s imperative that adults recognize the amazing opportunity they have in a young person’s life. Whether family, neighbor, teacher, formal mentor, etc., by simply being a friend, we can be a contributing force to a young person’s positive mental health.
We are #HereForYou
Co-Founder and Communications Director of AgingUp