The absence of mental illness does not mean someone has flourishing mental health. This has been a common theme I have encountered lately, and is also one of the major focal points of positive psychology.
The idea of optimal functioning involves more than the absence of illness, and extends to our experience of positive emotions, using positive character traits, and developing positive institutions.
The development of positive institutions is a major factor in a community’s level of mental health.
Often we view psychological well-being at the individual level, without considering the impact of the community we live in. Though we don’t live in a vacuum separated from the surrounding environment. Our environment has a major impact on our development.
This is similar to Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory, which explains how our development and overall functioning comes from many levels of socialization, such as direct parents and family to our overall culture.
In this sense the policies and institutions in a given community have a major impact on the well-being of the individuals and the development of future generations.
There is a vast array of problems that youth of today may have to face. It can be a fast and confusing world taking place during such a crucial stage of adolescent cognitive, psychological, and social development.
Living a mentally, physically, and socially healthy life is something that is learned. Promoting positive youth development means helping youth understand what success means to them, and the characteristics and skills of a thriving, productive adult.
Many youth programs focus on the problem and target a specific group for prevention. There are many programs that offer assistance and education to prevent drug and alcohol use, teen pregnancy, and dropping out of school to name a few.
Positive Youth Development (PYD) on the other hand, is a framework to help youth be more hopeful, engaged, and thriving members of society. This is done through focusing on positive outcomes, strength of character, and how to cultivate well-being and life-satisfaction now and into the future.
PYD is often conceptualized by the five “Cs.” These are core values that provide a strengths based approach and outlines how to help youth be successful in the long-term. The five “Cs” include:
I was talking with a friend recently about her concerns for her teenage son regarding setting goals, planning for his future, and feeling more confident about school. She expressed wishing schools had some sort of “life skills” program.
I agreed with her, and had actually thought about this previously after looking into Positive Youth Development (PYD), which on a side note, is something I’ll be writing a post on soon.
In short, PYD provides a framework to support youth development by focusing on strengths and building assets, with the goal that youth will grow up to be contributing adults.
A major part of this framework includes public institutions, such as schools and other community centers, working in unison with the parents and youth toward this mutual goal.
What do you think? Should schools have some responsibility to help youth develop emotionally as well as academically?
I believe schools can really be an empowering institution that promotes well-being and develops psychosocial strengths, in addition to academic learning.
Compassion is a state of mind that could truly improve human existence, and from a personal level, can offer enhanced emotional well-being.
What is compassion?
Compassion is an emotional state that emerges when sensing the suffering of others. More specifically, it includes knowledge that someone/something is suffering, identifying with the sufferer, and connecting to how the other may be feeling.
It is a co-suffering of sorts, which prompts the desire to help the other and alleviate the distress.
A disconnect and loss of hope
Acting compassionately is easier said than done. It doesn’t necessarily come naturally to have compassion for those we don’t have an emotional bond to, or when we probably have much to personally worry about already.
Often, the problems of the world, or circumstances we find people in, can seem hopeless and unsolvable. It can feel much easier to put on our emotional armor and neglect the issue.