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Youth Mentorship

Mentorship is a co-created process, and a mutually beneficial one. At Tara's Meadow, we work with youth, elders, and everyone in-between to form conscious relationships where both parties "teach" as well as learn.

The research is clear:

To face climate change & worldwide despair, we need to build youth resilience.

Both direct and indirect impacts of climate change negatively affect our youth: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Increased prevalence and severity of natural disasters can cause forced migration, displacement, violence, and increased exposure to extreme heat, illness, and chronic stress. These traumatic events disrupt the lives of youth and their families.
International Journal of Public Health, 2010

Youth are at increased risk of developing PTSD, depression, anxiety, phobias, sleep disorders, attachment disorders, and substance abuse disorders from climate change and related effects. 
Current Psychiatry Reports, 2018

Even if not directly exposed to climate-related traumatic events, youth are showing increasing levels of mental health distress due to the climate crisis, characterized by feelings of sadness, guilt, eco-anxiety, sleep and appetite changes, difficulty concentrating, and disconnection from land. 
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2021; Current Psychiatry Reports, 2018

A new term has been developed to give greater meaning and clarity to environment-induced distress: solastalgia, "the distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment." According to researchers, people exposed to changes in their environment due to climate change experienced negative mental effects that stem from strong feelings of powerlessness or lack of control. 
Australasian Psychiatry, 2007

Cracked Mud
Girl by the Sea

These effects can dramatically alter their course of life, sending youth into a downward spiral where they see no future and no way out.

Climate change-related disruptions to health and livelihood can impede proper development of a child's emotion regulation skills, cognition, learning, behavior, language development, and academic performance. These can follow them their entire life, affecting their career and determining their life path.
Current Psychiatry Reports, 2018; International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2021

In addition to individual struggles, climate change erodes physical environments which, in turn, damage social environments. As livelihoods and community infrastructure are destroyed, people socialize less and suffer increased loneliness and disconnection. 
International Journal of Public Health, 2010

These effects compound with other strains and are leading to serious problems for our future generations, including increased suicide mortality. 
International Journal of Public Health, 2010

Light in the Darkness

Supporting Visions of Hope for Future Generations

Mentorship provides critical social support to youth bearing the emotional toll of climate change and other global problems.

The worsening climate crisis, ripple effects of COVID-19, international conflict, natural disasters...these tragedies, when compounded by broader-than-ever media coverage, can leave us all with feelings of despair. Burnout, climate anxiety, and climate grief are all being felt. Children, teens, and young adults (the current "Generation Z") are especially affected, with high levels of mental distress. And, for activists, advocates, students, and environmental protectors who seek to bring about change, it can be easy to feel that our efforts aren't making a difference.

This emotional burnout related to eco-anxiety is what we aiming to prevent. Through intentional, compassionate mentorship, we work to create spaces where we can talk honestly and openly with each other about our worldly fears, hopes and aspirations, and doubts about ourselves. Initiating those conversations is important: if we don’t talk, we risk increased feelings of isolation, powerlessness, and hopelessness. 

Co-benefits of working at the climate change, mental health, children/youth intersection. Graphic by Gislason, M. K., Kennedy, A. M., & Witham, S. M. (2021).

Co-benefits of working at the climate change, mental health, children/youth intersection. 
Copyright 2021 by Gislason, M. K., Kennedy, A. M., & Witham, S. M., open access article CC BY 4.0.

BENEFITS TO "MENTEES"

Besides the countless personal stories and anecdotes we hear from community members who engage with Tara's Meadow, mentoring:​

BENEFITS TO "MENTORS"

  • New perspectives, knowledge, and understandings of the world

  • New personal or professional networks and relationships

  • Motivation to engage with new people and communities

  • Opportunities to reflect on your own practice and areas for improvement

  • The satisfaction of helping someone experience greater success, and the recognition from the greater community that often comes with it

Perhaps most compelling is the greater depth and fulfillment one feels as a mentor, working and building community with the next generation. 

By creating deep mentorship connections on personal and professional levels, we can foster resilience in the spirits of our youth and continue our work together to solve the problems of our time.

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TESTIMONIALS OF OUR MENTORSHIP PROGRAM

[My mentor] set me on a different path. One in which my heart plays as much a role in my choices as my head does. Our quiet talks have taught me infinitely more about the world and my place in it than any curriculum ever could.

West C.

MAKE AN IMPACT WITH OUR MENTORSHIP PROGRAM

Connect with us to learn how you can get involved in our youth mentorship initiative and make an impact on the next generation of changemakers.

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What is Conscious Mentorship?

A message from our director, Seamus Norgaard

I often see, and often say that some of my fellow “senior citizens” have it all wrong, when they think of what it means to be a mentor to young folks. They tend to idealize what they imagine their roles should be with youth – imparters of wisdom, they think -- and then they get frustrated when it does not work out this way. “Why won’t they listen! If they would just listen to the voice of experience!” I often hear in exasperation. Some seniors just want to tell their own stories uninterrupted: they want to relate all that they know, and believe that should provide meaning and connection with a young person’s life.

 

For me, mentorship doesn’t begin with old people talking to youth. It begins more quietly, with our selective expressions of love and admiration for some of the young people we meet in our lives. The poet Robert Bly once said: “An elder man who is not admiring a younger man is not doing his job.”

THE JOB OF MENTORSHIP BEGINS QUIETLY, with our subtle expressions of love and admiration for those special young people who have entered our lives. These will be the youth we choose, or just as often, the young people who have chosen us. We just need to notice them. Mentorship begins when we discover things we can admire in a younger person’s life and let them know this -- with no judgements added in. When we notice them, when we initiate this process with an expression of kindness and admiration, it will be felt...