By Simone Allan
The Final Year of School — the BCE, VCE, SACE, WACE, HSC or equivalent is a time of extreme social, emotional and mental pressure and a time when students are for the first time ‘in transition’. High school circles, activities and communities dissipate as students embark on the next phase of their life journey through further education, employment and often moving away from the safety and care given at home.
Swinburne University of Technology research shows “more than half (57%) of young people feel like they sometimes or always have no one to turn to”. Now more than ever, students are facing more difficulties, as extracurricular events, formals and sporting activities have been temporarily halted due to the global pandemic. Specifically, two thirds of the 1,000 students surveyed by UNICEF were worried about their education being disrupted or held back as a result of the changes being made to schooling as part of the COVID-19 response.
Many students were concerned about how the pandemic might impact their tertiary applications or possible future employment opportunities. These social events give students a sense of belonging during their final year. However, many students might be feeling as if they are now struggling alone with not much to look forward to.
Rejection by peers is the most intense fear faced by adolescents. Research undertaken by the University of Michigan found that “the same parts of the brain are stimulated by social rejection as physical pain.” As a mum with a teenage son in transition, I can totally relate — conversations around the feeling of teenage isolation and loneliness prevail. So often the questions are around “ Why was I not included?” or “Why don’t they appear stressed or anxious as I am feeling?”
Studies show that loneliness peaks in adolescents according to the National Library of Medicine. Teenage Isolation can be an indicator of avoidant personality disorder leading to:
● Increased stress levels and cortisone levels
● Restless sleep
● Impacts on physical health
● Increased alcohol and drug use to numb
● Poor self care and grooming
● A negative outlook
● Risk of self harm and suicide
● Low self esteem, unwillingness to take risks, anxiety and depression.
What’s the solution? Connection — the opposite of disconnection is connection, opposite of isolation is connection. Connection with the simple things in life leads to empathy for oneself and others leading to:
★ High functioning Immune system
★ Better self care /self esteem
★ Lower anxiety & depression
★ A more positive outlook
★ Improved cognition
★ More empathy and feelings for others
★ Ultimately a longer life expectancy
How do we create connection?
Find a Mentor
A mentor is “a supportive person who works with a person to build a relationship by offering guidance, support and encouragement.
According to a 2006 report by the American Psychological Association “mentored individuals often earn higher performance evaluations, higher salaries, and faster career progress than non-mentored individuals”.
Where do we find mentors — Informally and Formally?
a) Greater family and family friend networks — great uncles, aunts, grandparents. The Rosetto effect studies in the US consider the greater community — babysitters, past teachers, and/or neighbours.
b) A fellow traveller — A” wound mate”: studies show we find strength from shared learning that comes from similar challenges.
a) Look for a formal mentor service offered through secondary schools and universities, employer organisations and professional associations. Connect with us at The Mentor Evolution to understand how to launch and grow a successful mentoring program on behalf of your Alumni community.
b) Consider activities for wellbeing — incorporate physical, social, emotional, mental and spiritually energising into your wellbeing routine. Fun ways to connect all the aspects of wellbeing above into one is to look for ways to be outdoors and engage in physical activity with friends or through local community groups.
3. Activities that provide the opportunity to view the world with a different lens.
a) Pat a dog, start a conversation with someone in your neighbourhood, look for opportunities to volunteer, seek part-time work — you will start to see the world through someone else’s eyes.
“Isolation is the crux of all human suffering, and human connection is the antidote.” — Caroline Fenkel
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