May marks Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States and awareness is becoming critical given the alarming rates of mental health issues in this country. Currently, anxiety disorders affect 25.1 percent of American children between 13 and 18 years old, and reports of loneliness and social isolation are higher than ever, especially for the youngest generation. In a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, suicide attempts among school-aged children have more than doubled since 2008.
For the International Positive Education Network (IPEN), the most striking of these statistics is that mental health is getting worse for young people, with depression rates moving from 8.5 percent in 2011 to 11.1 percent in 2014. Research shows that when mental health issues go untreated, young people are more at risk to perform poorly in school, withdraw socially and engage in substance abuse. Many of these issues require immediate professional attention, which often is not available, so the problem worsens.
It’s extremely important to encourage attention and support for open conversations about mental health challenges and solutions so those struggling know they are not alone and can easily seek the help they need.
Despite the startling statistics, IPEN sees an opportunity in schools for building resilience and mental health. Positive education is a preventive approach that promotes teaching a double helix model of education with one strand being academics and the other character and well-being. Research shows there is no trade-off between academic learning and well-being, rather these strands are mutually reinforcing.
To bring the idea of positive education to a global audience, IPEN is partnering with the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry to host the World Positive Education Accelerator June 25–28 in Fort Worth, Texas.
World leaders in psychology, education and policy will convene in one place to have a united conversation about the growing problem of mental health and well-being and how together we might add one solution through positive education.
This event will be part inspiring keynotes, workshops and panel presentations as well as part appreciative inquiry summit. The summit, led by David Cooperrider, Ph.D., encourages the audience’s interactive participation in identifying and acting on solutions. Attendees will engage in critical dialogue around these issues and build an action plan that will last beyond the event.
It is our hope that we can accelerate the conversation on prevention in mental health by equipping students around the world with the tools they need to build a flourishing life.
It is critical that this event include the voices of a diverse range of stakeholders and, most importantly, young people. Live Happy is offering 20 scholarships to students ages 15 to 21 from around the world to contribute their valuable voices. If you are interested in attending on a scholarship, please apply to livehappy.com/wpeascholarships by June 1.