At first glance, it seems like every kid in Ely is on the ski team and works at like three different outfitters all summer long. They have sports teams that punch above their weight and they are the only school in Minnesota to be chosen to put on Frozen. Seems like they are thriving. There are amazing opportunities, but there is also a crisis of mental health in Ely youth. This is a reflection of a national trend. According to the CDC, youth in general are experiencing more feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide. I don’t have any hard data to share about Ely youth - but I can tell you that I’ve worked with several students who have had debilitating suicidal thoughts. There are enough students going to psychiatric hospitals that youth have developed a term for it: “going on a grippy sock vacation.”
So what is there to do about it? I certainly don’t claim to have a complete solution to the problem, but I do think mentoring can help. There are a lot of youth in this town who are isolated, socially anxious, and in need of a friend. That is what we’re trying to address with Ely Community Resource’s Youth Mentoring Program - connecting youth with someone who will just show up for them in a consistent and caring way.
I coordinate ECR’s mentoring program but I also volunteer as a mentor through the program. Hanging out with my mentee is one of the most fun and purposeful aspects of my life. While running or hiking or playing chess, we have varied conversations that range from bizarre to insightful.
Really getting to know someone, anyone, is beneficial - but building a relationship with someone from a different generation has been super rewarding.
I am exposed to all sorts of new perspectives, lingo, ideas, etc. I also feel like helping him out doesn’t require anything radical- he just needs someone to listen and occasionally offer a non-judgemental bit of perspective or advice. He’s grateful for the connection and it’s been really awesome to watch him climb out of a dark place.
Mentoring is inspiration that goes both ways.
There’s also solid research to suggest that having just one supportive adult in a young person’s life can make a huge difference. This study of 2500 people in Wales (which is surprisingly similar to Ely, demographically), demonstrated that youth with adverse childhood experiences were more likely to develop resiliency when they had a supportive adult in their life. If you're curious how they measured resilience - their surveys measured things like; having access to opportunities, a sense of belonging at school, having a role model, feeling understood by parents and being culturally engaged. In all of these dimensions, outcomes were improved by having a supportive adult in their life. Another study from the CDC, showed that for LGBTQ+ youth, the results of supportive adults not only built resilience but prevented suicide. LGBTQ+ students are 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt if theyve had at least one supportive adult in their life.
So, there. That’s my attempt to persuade you that mentoring is worthwhile. Maybe it’s even worth YOUR time. As it so happens, we are recruiting mentors right now!
Honestly, I need your help. We need mentors.
We are looking for caring adults who can volunteer 1 hour a week to build a positive and supportive relationship with a young person in Ely. Maybe you're up for it? Maybe you're curious and have some questions? Maybe you know someone else that would be perfect? Let's talk!
More information about the mentoring program can be found here
The application for mentoring can be found here
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