Becoming more social and developing self-confidence has taken time for me. Back when I was in middle and high school, I was shy, quiet and reserved. Joining a sports team and a social awareness club in high school was out of my comfort zone but ultimately helped me to interact with other students I might not have otherwise and helped me to broaden my ways of thinking. Then came college, I was on my own, with no college applications looming over me as one of the reasons to be involved in something other than classes. I joined the Student Alumni Club at my college and over my 4 years there took on some leadership roles that helped me learn skills that to this day, have helped me out in my personal and professional life. I also made a couple great friends who I still keep in touch with. Looking back now, as an adult, I think belonging to something, like a club or a team, had more benefits than I ever realized.
Fast forward to today and school is looking completely different; virtual, remote, eLearning, whatever you want to call it, is causing a lot more “alone time” for (pre)teens which can lead to feeling lonely. Certainly more than when I was growing up; and these feelings are concerning.
Loneliness in children and adolescents is also worrisome because it can have long-term effects. Research shows that loneliness in kids, especially over extended periods, is linked with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety in the following years. (Mayo Clinic)
So, while we physically distance ourselves, let’s not socially distance. According to psychologists, teenagers who lack a sense of belonging to social groups such as family, friends and school are more likely to suffer mental health issues. A sense of belonging to social groups is good for your mental health. (Notthingham Trent University)
Feeling part of group activities, such as family projects, activism work, school/faith-based community activities and employment, can improve feelings of connection to others. It can help combat feelings of loneliness by offering a sense of accomplishment and boosting your self-esteem. (US News & World Report)
Even in these times where some of you are not physically in school, various extracurricular school clubs may be happening. Whether a club is in-person or taking a virtual approach this year, there are many benefits of joining and getting involved.
Benefits of Being Part of a Club:
Meet New People. If you’re in a large middle or high school, there may be students with whom you have never spoken. Clubs often revolve around a particular interest therefore you’ll meet others who have a similar and shared interest.
Boost Your Confidence & Your Self-Esteem. Often, the more you interact with others, the more confident you feel about talking and sharing with them.
Learn Teamwork, Leadership, & Communication Skills. Work with others who have different ideas and personalities. Most club projects require teamwork so you’ll need to work together and communicate. Clubs also lend themselves to opportunities for leadership with committees and leadership positions. Being a club president, vice president or other leader provides a great way to stand out on college applications, and more importantly, helps you develop other important life skills.
Focus on Something Besides Academics. Being part of an extracurricular activity means you are going above and beyond your school requirements.
The Erika’s Lighthouse community was very welcoming and very open. That was a big experience for me, the first moment for me to express something that I’ve wanted to talk about for a while. Now I had that community and those people that understood – to help me share what I’ve been wanting to share. – Teen Empowerment Club Member
Empowering YOU with Erika’s Lighthouse (ELH) Teen Empowerment Clubs
This may sound cheesy, but you have the power to change the world. You can shift your school’s culture to be more positive, inclusive and empathetic on issues surrounding mental health with an ELH Teen Empowerment Club. You and your peers are tomorrow’s world leaders.
An ELH Teen Empowerment Club is an opportunity to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and educate your peers about good mental health, depression, and other mental health challenges. When you talk, your peers listen. When you insist on making learning about mental health a priority in your school community, you show your peers that there is nothing to be ashamed of. This breaks down the stigma.
Erika’s Lighthouse isn’t a club for people who have gone through depression or know someone, it’s for everyone, it’s for kindness, it’s for spreading awareness with kindness around the school. – Teen Empowerment Club Member
Your school will benefit from a Teen Empowerment Club by:
- Raising awareness of depression and mental health challenges
- Educating teachers/staff, parents, and students about depression and mental health
- Reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and encouraging those experiencing challenges to seek help
- Increasing the ability to have engaging & supportive dialogue surrounding mental health
- Developing peer leadership for a more positive, inclusive, and empathetic school culture
…it’s more of empowerment with a sense of community…it’s more of a club for you to learn about mental health and for you to find people you can share it with.- Teen Empowerment Club Member