Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Examining the Relationship between Self-Esteem, Mattering, School Connectedness, and Wellness among Middle School Students

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Examining the Relationship between Self-Esteem, Mattering, School Connectedness, and Wellness among Middle School Students

Article excerpt

Early adolescence (defined as ages 11-13) is a pivotal stage in the development of young people. As youth transition out of childhood, they begin facing several challenges related to the psychological, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive changes associated with adolescence (Rowley, Roesch, Jurica, & Vaughn, 2005). Furthermore, during this time of transition, adolescents begin to learn new behaviors that may either promote health and social adaptation or seriously undermine adjustment in later adolescence and adulthood (Stormshak et al., 2011; Wynne, Ausikaitis, & Satchwell, 2013).

Although most individuals experience adolescence as a relatively healthy period, a growing number of children are facing significant challenges during their adolescent years. When these challenges go unaddressed, they can leave some adolescents vulnerable to making unhealthy decisions, potentially resulting in the emergence of myriad behavioral health issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation (Guo, Nguyen, Weiss, Ngo, & Lau, 2015; Watson & Lemon, 2011). Recent statistics released by the World Health Organization (WHO; 2017), show an estimated 10-20% of adolescents worldwide experiencing mental disorders, and nearly half of all diagnosed mental illnesses beginning by age 14.

Although the number of adolescents developing symptoms placing them at risk for mental health problems is increasing, few of these individuals seek out professional help. Approximately 18-35% of diagnosed adolescents are actively receiving services to address their various mental health issues (Gulliver, Griffiths, & Christensen, 2010; Jörg et al., 2016). The rest either forgo needed care or lack access to available services (Coles et al., 2016). Based on this underutilization of community mental health services, several scholars have identified schools as the primary setting for addressing adolescent mental health issues (Brown, Dahlbeck, & SparkmanBarnes, 2006; Collins, 2014; Walley & Grothaus, 2013; Wynne et al., 2013). School counselors' immediate access to students with mental health issues makes them a well-positioned resource capable of providing the mental and behavioral health services that otherwise might not be accessible or available to these children (Collins, 2014). Furthermore, preventive services provided by school counselors as part of a comprehensive school counseling program may buffer the development of future mental health issues among at-risk youth.

Per the American School Counselor Association (2015), "school counselors recognize and respond to the need for mental health and behavioral prevention, early intervention and crisis services that promote psychosocial wellness and development for all students" (p. 57). One approach school counselors can take to meet this charge and deliver much needed responsive and preventive services is to incorporate a strength-based wellness model into their existing school counseling curricula (Briggs, Gilligan, Staton, & Barron, 2010; Holcomb-McCoy, 2005; Villalba & Myers, 2008). As described by Myers, Sweeney, and Witmer (2000), wellness is best viewed as a multidimensional construct in which mind, body, and spirit are integrated in a purposeful manner with a goal of living life more fully. Wellness and illness are not opposite ends on the same continuum; individuals can perceive themselves as being well and still exhibit symptoms of mental illness. However, a connection between wellness and illness exists; researchers have demonstrated that a positive outlook on life relates to a reduction in the intensity and duration of illnesses, both physical and mental (Manderscheid et al., 2010). Although multiple theories and models of wellness have been created, most fail to capture the true holistic nature of individual wellness. One model that has shown promise, and is grounded in the counseling literature, is the evidence-based Indivisible Self Model of Wellness (IS-Wel; Myers & Sweeney, 2005). …

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