In the United States, teens’ emotional health has declined significantly over the past two decades. Adolescents are more likely to develop mental health disorders compared to previous generations, and reports suggest anxiety rates have increased by 20 percent in youth and suicide hospitalizations have doubled. The teenage years are also vital for identity formation and instilling a sense of purpose – something with far-reaching impact later in life.
Seeking to understand the root causes of mental health challenges facing teens and leveraging decades of neuroscientific research, a team at Healthy Minds Innovations, an external non-profit affiliated with the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is launching a research partnership to measure emotional well-being in teens and develop strategies to promote flourishing in this age group.
Supported by a $5 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) Donor Advised Fund, an advised fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the project will support the healthy development of skills such as connection, awareness, insight and purpose through the development of easy-to-use, mobile measures for adolescents.
In education, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s mission is to ensure every young person enters adulthood with the skills and abilities they need to reach their full potential, and that every teacher is equipped with the tools and research they need to help get students there. CZI’s approach to getting there is defined by a focus on “whole child” outcomes, creating a tailored teaching and learning experience for each child, and informed by the latest science about how students and adults learn and develop.
The work to be supported is based on a framework for well-being that includes four core constituents: awareness, connection, insight and purpose – each of which can be trained and improved. There is a lack of robust measures on well-being, particularly in adolescents, and the first step toward developing interventions to improve people’s well-being is the creation of robust measures.