Teenagers: The Incredible Outcomes Of Helping Others

Could helping others prevent mental illness?

Helping others can address the feeling of not belonging, which is one of the biggest pains for adolescents nowadays. Dr. Maria Pagano, expert in the application of quantitative methods to study how mutual-help processes change over time among youth and adults in addiction recovery, conducted studies that lead to this conclusion.

For more than 10 years, the studies that she conducted have shown that a supportive network, reduces isolation, decreases social anxiety, and — especially — helping others can increase the chances of staying sober by up to 50 percent. (The studies where focusing on alcohol addiction).

Most addicts have social anxiety, a feeling of not be accepted or approved by the people around them. Social anxiety often leads to trying drugs or alcohol, since it is an artifact that eases social aptitude.

Adolescents with Social Anxiety Disorder who actively participated in helping others had a significantly reduced risk of relapse or incarceration in the six months after their treatment finished.

Helping others decreases levels of narcissism and entitlement: Two major factors that lead to addiction and decreases the will to step into recovery. Helping others means that you focus on others and not yourself. It enriches you because you realize that you have the power to make a difference in others’ lives. This is life changing and highly empowering.

Pagano is not the only believer in the benefits of helpings, Stephen Post, the director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University wrote a book called “The Hidden Gifts of Helping”. “When you are involved in helping others, it blocks off destructive emotions and impulses,” says Post. “You can’t be ruminating or feel hostile and bitter if you’re feeling moved by helping someone else.”

If you have a purpose higher than you, it makes it much easier to introduce yourself and get to know people, hence serving as a very good way to create a social network. It is also very likely that you are building a long term supportive network as some of the people you help will help you some day when you’ll need it. This is all about finding a group you belong to.

I was happy to read these studies as I was able to observe this several times already and it was precisely my first motivation to create Give Us The Floor, a community By Teens — For Teens where teens support each other and share their struggles.

Yes, I observed with my own eyes that youth has the power to make a difference and that making a difference by helping others is fulfilling them, and it is showing them how great each of them can be.

Dr Maria Pagano has mostly conducted studies about addiction recovery, I’d be very interested to know how much helping others can help as a prevention to become addicted.

By observing teen members of Give Us The Floor, I see that the same principle applies: they are actively helping others by opening up about their struggles and difficulties. Knowing that they help their peers gives them the strength to share things that have happened or are happening to them and that they would keep shut inside themselves otherwise. Being able to voice your challenges during adolescence can prevent the explosion of untold and unaccepted issues leading to mental illness during adulthood. This is an effective way of promoting mental wellness in adulthood.

I have the chance to see teens improving tremendously in self-esteem and sense of belonging.

Parents, educators keep in mind than helping others can really be life-changing for your teen and please encourage it every time you can.

*Studies:
Association Between Social Influences and Drinking Outcomes Across Three Years
Social anxiety and peer helping in adolescent addiction treatment
The 10 Year Course of AA Participation and Long-Term Outcomes: A Follow-up Study of Outpatient Subjects in Project MATCH
Addiction and “Generation Me:” Narcissistic and Prosocial Behaviors of Adolescents with Substance Dependency Disorder in Comparison to Normative Adolescents
Alone on the Inside