CULTIVATING YOUTH MATTERING FOR MAINE YOUTH
Mattering is the sense of being significant and valued by other people. People who believe they matter to others have a key protective resource that can buffer them from life stressors and challenges throughout their lives.
Gordon Flett, PhD, Author, The Psychology of Mattering: Understanding the Human Need to Be Significant
Maine Resilience Building Network launched Cultivating Mattering for Maine Youth in response to data and research that makes a compelling case for community involvement in promoting mental health and well-being among young people. According to the 2019 National Survey of Children’s Health, Maine has the nation’s highest rate of children with diagnosed anxiety disorders and the third highest rate of children with diagnosed depression.
In a 2021 survey of Maine middle and high school students, 20 percent of middle and 18.5 percent of high school students said they have seriously considered suicide. At the same time, 45 percent of middle school and 49 percent of high school students said they don’t feel they matter in their communities.
Youth with protective factors – characteristics, conditions, or behaviors that reduce the effects of stressful life events – can reduce the risk of developing diseases of despair while mitigating the long-term impact of ACEs. They build resilience, a skill that will serve them throughout their lives.
MRBN works across the public and private sectors to catalyze community-developed approaches to build resilience.
Mattering and Connectedness
For youth, the CDC indicates, “Connectedness refers to a sense of being cared for, supported, and belonging, and can be centered on feeling connected to school, family (i.e., parents and caregivers), or other important people and organizations in their lives. Youth who feel connected at school and home are less likely to experience negative health outcomes related to sexual risk, substance use, violence, and mental health."
Recent CDC findings published in Pediatrics (Steiner, 2019) suggest that youth connectedness also has lasting effects. Youth who feel connected at school and at home were found to be as much as 66% less likely to experience health risk behaviors related to sexual health, substance use, violence, and mental health in adulthood. Mattering is strongly connected to the protective factor of social connectedness, recognized by the US CDC’s National Center on Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) as one of the five priority social determinants of health (SDOH) that can impact health and health equity.
“Social connectedness is the degree to which individuals or groups of individuals have and perceive a desired number, quality, and diversity of relationships that create a sense of belonging and being cared for, valued, and supported.” (CDC, 2020).
Social Determinates of Health (SDOH)
Social determinants of health are conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Conditions (e.g., social, economic, and physical) in these various environments and settings (e.g., school, church, workplace, and neighborhood) have been referred to as “place.” In addition to the more material attributes of “place,” the patterns of social engagement and sense of security and well-being are also affected by where people live (US DHHS, 2020).