Cultivating 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
Mattering and Connectedness
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).
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.
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).
The 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 wellbeing 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 2019 survey of Maine middle and high school students, 20 percent of middle schoolers and 16 percent of high schoolers said they have seriously considered suicide.
Youth who have protective factors – characteristics, conditions, or behaviors that reduce the effects of stressful life events – can reduce the risk of developing these diseases of despair while also mitigating the long-term effects of ACEs. They build resilience, a skill that will serve them throughout their lives.
MRBN is working across the public and private sectors to catalyze community-developed approaches to build resilience.
SAFE SPACES & SMALL ACTS
More than 40 percent of middle and high school students in Maine don’t feel they matter in their communities. Given that Mattering is a protective factor for mental health issues and diseases of despair, that statistic is particularly alarming in a state that leads the nation in youth diagnosed with anxiety and where an increasing number of young people report considering suicide.
The Maine Resilience Building Network launched Cultivating Mattering for Maine Youth in response to the data and research that builds a compelling case for the need for communities to ensure that young people feel seen, heard, and valued.
Nearly 500 civic & business leaders, educators, healthcare professionals, public safety leaders & staff, lawmakers, organizations, and community members participated. in a statewide series of Community Conversations identified strategies and approaches that support Mattering, which are summed up the newly-released report Building a Culture for Community Resilience: Safe Spaces and Small Acts.
For work in communities to be sustainable, policies and systems must be in place to support them. With this report, MRBN offers communities and policy makers a starting point to work together to ensure that Maine youth matter.
to everyone who participated in our Cultivating Mattering for Maine Youth Community Conversations!