Here at EDGE, we’re on a mission to foster growth and help young professionals reach their full potential in every area of their lives. We do that by connecting generations in whole-life mentoring relationships – because we believe that real growth happens when people can bring their whole selves to work, to their communities, and to their churches. We also believe that a foundational part of our whole selves is our mental health.
And we need to talk about it now more than ever, as nearly one in five adults in the U.S. currently lives with mental illness. An estimated 18% of U.S. adults have an anxiety disorder, and about 80% of adults with depression have reported at least some difficulty with work, home, or social activities because of their symptoms.
Treatment for the most common conditions is effective 80 percent of the time, but only 33 percent of the people who need help will get it – in large part because of the fear and shame that come with mental illness. Without the support of a strong community, this stigma drives people to silence, and silence keeps them from seeking the help they need.
And while the digital revolution has given us the power of online community, we are still facing a loneliness epidemic that’s fueling the harmful effects of mental illness. Research shows an astounding gap in community engagement among Americans today; according to General Social Survey, the number of Americans with no close friends has tripled since 1985, and zero is the most common number of confidants reported by those who were surveyed.
For those who are living with mental illness, the need for authentic and vulnerable communities is greater than ever before. At EDGE, we strive to provide the space where young professionals and seasoned leaders alike are free to bring their whole selves, to be open and honest about their struggles and successes, and to have a community who meets them right where they are.
“We believe this ‘third space’ we’ve created through EDGE is so critical in combating this pervasive loneliness epidemic impacting society today,” says Dave Neff, President and CEO of EDGE. “We were made to be in relationship, and I believe intergenerational relationships can be the key to unlocking abundant community.”
There are many benefits to mentoring relationships, but one of the greatest – whether the relationship is personal, professional or spiritual – is their positive impact on mental health. A study of a mentoring program for police forces showed that “people who served as mentors experienced lower levels of anxiety, and described their job as more meaningful, than those who did not mentor. Mentors heard their mentees’ accounts of anxiety and realized these feelings – which they also shared – were commonplace. By acknowledging that these anxieties were common, both mentees and mentors grew more comfortable in discussing them and in sharing different coping mechanisms.”
Despite the rising rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, and drug use, the good news is that there are more resources being offered, more conversations being had, and more research being done. There is access to education and resources from national organizations like the American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. And companies are realizing that the real key to improving their bottom line is taking care of their greatest asset – their people – by investing in their mental health.