Teenagers are facing challenging times, filled with academic pressures, social anxieties, and personal uncertainties often made worse by the pervasiveness of social media. In the face of these challenges, one highly effective yet often overlooked way for teens to experience a mental health boost is through volunteer work and community service.

Research has shown that adults and teens who engage in volunteer activities tend to experience increased happiness and emotional well-being compared to those who don’t. Most people will agree that they feel good about themselves when they’re doing good to and for others. For young people, it goes beyond just how they feel about themselves; it actually can improve teens’ mental health for the long term. Here’s why: 

  1. Volunteering reduces stress by focusing on something beyond their own worries. And incidentally, the more satisfying the volunteer experience, the greater the mood improvement and reduction in stress.
  1. Volunteering combats depression by distracting teens from negative thinking and self-criticism. It fosters a sense of accomplishment and motivation, encouraging them to explore their potential.
  1. Volunteering prevents feelings of isolation when teens expand their social network and make new friends. Engaging in activities they enjoy increases the likelihood of connecting with like-minded individuals and forming lasting friendships.
  1. Volunteering increases confidence as teens gain new skills, often learning these skills in an unfamiliar environment; it also stimulates their minds and fosters a positive self-image.
  1. Volunteering gives a sense of purpose and meaning as well as a sense of fulfillment. It offers a different source of meaning, separate from their school or personal life, and broadens their perspective.
  1. Volunteering ignites passion, allowing teens to explore various interests and learn from experts in fields such as social work, sustainability, heath care and more, which can even turn into a career direction. It also provides an exciting escape from their daily routine, especially if they spend too much time in front of screens.
  1. Volunteering makes you feel happy by triggering the release of “feel-good” hormones and increases brain activity, leading to happiness. Encouraging teens to give back and serve their community contributes to their well-being and overall joy.

Go on, tell your teens: Do something good for yourself while doing something good for others! Consider discussing these benefits with your teen and exploring the volunteer opportunities offered by YouthFirst to help them discover the rewards of giving back to their community. 

If you have concerns about your teen’s mental health, please don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Contact JFCS’ Center for Children and Youth at 1-888-927-0839 or contact us online.