How Mental Health and Wellbeing Impact Youth Job Readiness

Young people, and at-risk youth in particular, can face an uphill battle when trying to find a job. Mental health issues and the underlying factors that contribute to mental health problems can make it even harder for youth to be ready to join the workforce and earn a living. Fortunately, many of the CSF’s funded partners are addressing those problems so Jackson County youth can be job-ready, improve their mental health and get equipped to thrive.

Barriers to Youth Job Readiness

While it’s nice to think good grades and determination will land anyone a job, the reality is there are plenty of barriers that can get in the way of at-risk young people finding work. These include:

  • A lack of a stable home and positive, employed role models
  • Health conditions, including mental and behavioral health problems 
  • Poverty, which makes it hard to buy necessary uniforms, get enough food to have the energy to work, or have reliable transportation
  • Criminal records or challenges with substance abuse
  • Homelessness, which means they don’t have an address to put on a job application or can’t get required IDs
  • Lack of interpersonal skills and self-confidence
  • Academic qualifications for those that struggle to graduate or complete a GED, or college degrees required for even low-level jobs

Mental illnesses can make it harder to overcome those barriers to youth job readiness. And many of those life circumstances listed can cause or exacerbate mental illnesses. It becomes a vicious circle that keeps kids from getting ahead. That’s why the holistic funding approach to improving the mental health of Jackson county kids and youth is so important.

How CSF Funded Partners Are Helping

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental illnesses are conditions that impact someone’s thinking, emotions, and mood in ways that interfere with daily functioning at home, school, or work. The most prevalent mental illnesses in school-aged young people include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioral or conduct problems, anxiety, and depression.

CSF funding goes toward 10 service areas that all support the mental health of local kids and youth. Here’s how those services are helping them make progress toward job readiness.

Addressing mental health in schools.

Mental health issues in childhood and adolescence increase the risk for poor academic performance. And underperforming academically can limit a young person’s job options and make it harder to earn a living once they’re on their own.

  • Studies show that emotional and behavioral problems in kids as young as 3 are associated with performing below grade level at age 12. 
  • Depression in school-aged youth is linked to reduced academic achievement and increased school suspensions.
  • Only 1/3 of adolescents with mental illness pursue postsecondary education.

It’s estimated that in a school of 600 students, about 100 of them are dealing with a mental illness. That’s why the CSF funds programs that put counselors and social workers in the schools, giving students direct access to professionals who can assess issues and help students get the help they need.

Developing soft skills.

Soft skills are the interpersonal skills one needs to do a job. It’s a broad term that includes social, emotional, and cognitive skills, as well as behaviors that help people navigate the work environment, relate well to others, and achieve their goals. 

Soft skills are in high demand by employers – but vulnerable youth who haven’t experienced healthy developmental stages are at a much higher risk of not developing those softs skills needed for success on the job, or in life. And complicating matters, mental health issues can impair the development of social skills and executive function (reason and decision-making) skills.

Here’s how CSF funded partners are helping youth develop these critical soft skills.

  • Mentoring — A teen’s mental health, emotional wellness, and social well-being improve when they have a mentor. This leads to healthier relationships and lifestyle choices, enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence, stronger relationships with parents, peers and teachers, and improved interpersonal skills
  • Conflict resolution — Navigating conflict is a learned skill. Kids are learning skills that prevent normal conflict from becoming verbally or physically violent. They learn bullying prevention, conflict resolution, anger management, and leadership skills.
  • Coping skills & resiliency — Being able to identify, express and regulate their emotions during stressful times helps them navigate those situations today, and teaches them how to navigate them in a future workplace. This is also called emotional intelligence, and 71% of employers value emotional intelligence over IQ.

Enhancing Wellbeing

Meeting a child’s physical, psychological, and social needs supports brain development, the ability to regulate emotions, and the development of higher cognitive functions. So we invest in programs that meet those needs and help create positive environments that set kids and teens up for success.

  • Prevention services — Providing opportunities for positive activities, educating about bullying and domestic/sexual violence, and working with families to improve relationships and living conditions all go a long way toward preventing long-term issues that impact a young person’s potential. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that eliminating childhood adversities associated with unstable family functioning could prevent nearly half of childhood-onset mental disorders.
  • Substance abuse/addiction — Tackling substance abuse takes a holistic approach. So through CSF funded programs, youth and their families receive therapeutic services including assessments, early intervention, educational, counseling, therapy and aftercare.
  • Shelter/transitional housing — Shelter is one of the most fundamental human needs. Providing a safe place to live and supportive services to help homeless youth transition successfully into self-sufficiency is key to them having a stable future.

A lot more than good grades goes into helping youth be ready for the workforce. Jackson County is incredibly fortunate to have so many organizations that invest in local kids and youth to help them prepare for a healthy, happy future.

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