Did you know that January is National Mentoring Month? The month is marked to focus attention on the need for mentors, engaging individuals to mentor and promoting the rapid growth of mentoring by recruiting organizations to engage their employees in mentoring.
Not only can a mentor act as a life coach who keeps a youth on the right path in life or guides adults into a successful career, a mentor can also provide companionship that helps keep depression and anxiety at bay.
Jason Loepp is a mentor for and serves on the board of Affinity Mentoring, an organization in Grand Rapids that trains mentors across various organizations, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, to guide youth through life and its many challenges. Loepp sees value in mentoring for both the mentor and mentee by getting away from the daily stressors in life.
“When you mentor, it’s a break from everyday life and the demands that your daily work has,” Loepp said. “Taking time to play a game of soccer or Uno, those demands become an afterthought.”
Mental health benefits
Stress stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic – along with stress related to health care and the economy – is taking its toll on mental health, particularly among young people. According to a new American Psychological Association (APA) survey, 51% of men aged 18 to 34 and 62% of women aged 18 to 34 say they are completely overwhelmed by stress most of the time.
Studies show that social support affects well-being by reducing the negative effects of stress on health, and other research found that students with mentor support demonstrate significant improvements in behavior, social performance, attendance and test scores.
Here are ways mentoring improves mental health:
People who struggle with mental health issues often have feelings of isolation. While more and more people are feeling comfortable being open about their mental state, many still do not speak up, which leads to feeling isolated. Mentors can be a friend and confidant to their mentee, fighting feelings of isolation.
Anxiety drastically impacts general well-being and is a barrier to accomplishing everyday tasks for many people. Mentoring has been proven to reduce anxiety and build confidence among mentees. Feelings of anxiety can be minimized when they are shared with a mentor.
Particularly for young people, fear of the future can be crippling. People can feel detached when thinking about what lies ahead. Mentors are often able to provide guidance through their social lives as well as professional lives. A mentor helps their mentee work toward goals and accelerates their progress, reducing anxiety and instilling hope around the future.
Mentoring is all about helping another person, whether it be with education, social relationships or even guidance through a career. The pandemic is isolating many people to their homes and affecting their mental health. Mentorship can help curb these negative effects for both the mentor and mentee.
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Photo credit: Courtney Hale