Just last week, Kate Ellis, Minister for youth, hinted at the some early findings of the upcoming “The State of Australia’s Young People Report” indicating that up to 1 in 4 young people suffer from problems relating to mental health. In theUKearlier this year the Prince’s Trust published a report also highlighting that 1 in 4 young people are unhappy, I in 10 feel that life is not worth living and that life has no purpose. These shocking figures are significantly worse for ‘hard to reach’ young people not in education, employment or training.
So what’s going wrong for our young people? Research shows that despite huge increases in wealth, advances in health care and access to technology, western societies today are no happier than they were 50 years ago! This doesn’t mean everyone is miserable but levels of life satisfaction and well-being have not improved despite arguably higher standards of living and the reality is that levels of anxiety, stress, fear and depression are rising.
Causes are cited as breakdown of family and community relationships, increased violence, crime, drugs and alcohol use and perhaps the most insidious of all, ‘afluenza’ and social comparison – too many people, particularly the young, believe that happiness can be found through their looks, clothes, ipods and mobile phones, trainers or cars without realising that all too quickly they adapt to them and simply become envious that others have bigger, better or newer. Like the wicked queen in Snow White, when we can only judge ourselves by what the external world (the mirror on the wall) thinks, we can never be truly happy.
The field of positive psychology provides a wealth of evidence that it is possible for us to increase levels of happiness and well-being and sets out a clear and applicable framework for living a life of pleasure, engagement and meaning. We know that the most hopeful and optimistic people share three simple characteristics – they have goals, they have agency (self belief) in their ability to reach the goals and they are able to identify a range of pathways or routes to success which helps them to persevere when faced with inevitable setbacks.
How wonderful it would be if we could help young people to learn about and understand how they can use their strengths and inner resources to achieve a life of purpose, satisfaction and achievement. Evidence-based coaching, as an applied positive psychology, might be able to do just that. Outcomes of research studies have shown that coaching can result in significant increases in levels of well-being, resilience, hope and goal attainment in young people. Now is the time to be exploring how such findings might add value to existing youth support services and emerging government youth strategies which are being developed to help increase the life chances of our young people. The integration of evidence-based coaching within the existing skills sets of youth and community workers could indeed help to create flourishing young people.
Flourishing Youth Provision: The Potential Role of Evidence-based Coaching in Enhancing Youth Support Services.
Leach, C.J.C., Green, S. & Grant, A.M.(2011)