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Mentoring Can Save Lives
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By J.C. Delfino III
Each year over 30,000 Americans die from one preventable disease (“Get Involved”). Depression rips though the morale of people throughout the world. People are left devastated by this disease and feel powerless to its awful effects. Depression drives deep into the lives of America’s teens, leaving many the feeling that there is only one escape, suicide.
Mentoring has been proven to curb this disturbing trend and if more people participated in it, then more victims could live normal lives.
Depression is a disease, there is not denying it. Mayo Clinic defines depression as a medical illness that affects the mind and the body and goes on to say “it affects how you feel, think and behave” (“Depression”). It is also known as major depression, major depressive disorder and clinical depression.
Depression can be so severe that it affects your day to day activities and may even lead to a point of false belief that life isn’t worth living. Depression is not just a case of feeling down or having the blues. It is not something that a person can easily cast aside and carry on with normal life. Depression is categorized as a chronic illness and requires long-term treatment. Depression is real and depression is deadly. Depression should never be viewed as a weakness or minor issue. Full blown depression can be treated with counseling and medication. Like most diseases, if caught in the early stages it can be treated with much more ease (“Depression”). Dr. Ronald Rosenberg stated in his book Conquering Postpartum Depression that severe depression needs to be treated using the biopsychosocial method. This method combines the use of medicine to counter the effects of hormones affecting the brain, while also working with the personal problems in the psyche of the person, the fears anxieties and issues that are causing the depression, and finally combining the patient with a social support group that brings people together who are experiencing the same problems so they can build upon each other and strengthen social ties. (xxv)
What causes depression is unknown but many factors contribute to this mental illness such as biological differences, neurotransmitters, hormones, inherited traits, negative life events, and trauma. Some key factors for high risk people involve relatives with depression, being female, traumatic events during childhood, alcoholism, few personal relationships, recent birth (for mothers), serious illness, low self-esteem, and even finical and social status (“Depression”).
As stated before there are many signs of a person suffering from depression, but unfortunately many are not properly diagnosed beforehand and some even succumb to the disease and end up taking their own lives.
When dealing with depressed people, it is important to know what signs to watch for, and the Suicide Prevention Lifeline lists the following symptoms to watch for in people whom are who suffer from the most severe levels of this disease. These include: Threatening to hurt or kill oneself, looking for ways to kill oneself, talking or writing about death, feelings of hopelessness, rage or uncontrollable anger or need for revenge, engaging in risky activities, feeling of being trapped, increased alcohol or drug use, withdrawing from friends and family, anxiousness, agitated or unable to sleep, excessive sleep is also a possible sign of the disease along with mood swings. (“Suicide Warning Signs”). People showing multiple signs should receive medical care immediately.
Everyone suffers from depression to some degree and should be considered a possible threat to everyone’s health. No one is immune to this disease. Although there is no way to prevent depression, it can be kept to a minimal level without too much effort. Mayo Clinic states that “taking steps to control stress, to increase your resilience and boost self-esteem may help. Friendship and social support, especially in times of crisis, can help you weather rough spells” (“Depression”).
Understanding what depression is helps us understand how badly it needs to be addressed. Today’s youth suffer greatly from this disease and it is the third highest killer of people between the ages of 12-17. Almost 1,800 teens die yearly to this disease according to the National Center for Health Statistics (Hendrick).
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health report published in 2009 stated that one in eight adolescents has sought treatment or counseling for mental health issues. Of those 50% of the teens sought help for feeling depressed (The NSDUH Report). That is roughly one in sixteen kids are suffering from depression, and that is just the ones seeking help, and that does not include the ones undiagnosed.
What can be done to help these young victims of this terrible disease? How can we as responsible adults step forward and help the next generation of Americans? Studies have shown that mentoring can help improve self-esteem one of the main factors in people with depression. Even though this would be enough reason by itself to be involved in mentoring, there are many other great advantages to doing so. Mentoring also keeps kids in school. Mentees have better attendance and better attitudes about school in general. They encourage positive behaviors, and help control teenage drinking and drug use. Studies have shown that teens who receive mentoring are 46% less likely to use illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking. Mentors also help today’s youth plan for their tomorrow. Many mentors help young people with career goals and introduce them to avenues of advancement, including introducing their mentored youth to industry professionals, or possible internships. Some mentors even help their mentees find and keep employment (“The Value of Mentoring”).
“Mentoring by a caring adult over a prolonged period of time has been shown in countless academic studies to be effective in combating … risk factors. A number of studies have revealed a correlation between a young person’s involvement in a quality mentoring relationship and positive outcomes in the areas of school, mental health, problem behavior and health” (“The Value of Mentoring”).
In short, mentoring works and works well. Mentoring.org estimates that 18 million young Americans need or want mentoring; unfortunately, there are only three million current volunteers. It is no secret that America needs men and women to step up to the plate and fill this huge gap. Many do not feel that they are qualified to be a mentor, or they lack the skills necessary. This is untrue. Every person has the ability to reach out to America’s youth. A game of Frisbee, a day of hiking in the mountains, a game of basketball at the park, a couple hours making a craft together, or even just sitting playing a video game together can be the difference between life and death for some kids. Bob Berg made a powerful statement in “The Go-Giver” when he stated that the law of authenticity is simply, “The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself” (1441). If you just reach out with pure authenticity, being yourself and accept these kids for the people they are, and meet somewhere in the middle, lives can be forever changed.
Berg, Bob, and John D. Mann. The Go-Giver - A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea.
Kindle Edition. Portfolio, 2007.
"Depression (major depression)." Mayo Clinic Staff, MayoClinic.com. Mayo Clinic, 11 Feb.
2010. Web. 9 Mar. 2011. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression/ds00175>
"Get Involved." SuicidePreventionLifeline.org. Suicide Prevention Lifeline, n.d. Web. 9 Mar.
Hendrick, Bill. "More Than a Third of U.S. Teenage Deaths Are Due to Motor Vehicle
Accidents." WebMD.com. N.p., 5 May 2010. Web. 9 Mar. 2011.
Rosenberg, Ronald, M.D., Deborah Greening, Ph.D., and James Windell, M.A., Conquering
Postpartum Depression, 1st Ed. Cambridge: Perseus, 2003. XXV. Print.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies.
(February 19, 2009). The NSDUH Report: Adolescent Mental Health Service Settings and
Reasons for Receiving Care. Rockville, MD.
“Suicide Warning Signs." SuicidePreventionLifeline.org. Suicide Prevention Lifeline, n.d. Web.
9 Mar. 2011. <www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/getinvolved/default.aspx>
"The Value of Mentoring." Mentoring: National Mentoring Partnership. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Mar.
Revised 12/6/2011 jcd3