There is a mental health crisis brewing amongst our youth. Nearly one in three adolescents (31.9%) will meet criteria for an anxiety disorder by the age of 18. While school is in session, high school students are the single most stressed out population in the US. Youth depression and anxiety are rising at alarming rates. In 2016 an estimated 3.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode.
However, based on Dr. Bill Damon's research, we believe this is not simply because youth have too much to do it is also because they do not know why they are doing it. Only about 1 in 5 teenagers in the US report feeling a sense of purpose. Without this deeper sense of "why" or internal compass, our youth will continue to suffer at epidemic rates.
Students who have purpose in their lives are happier, healthier, more engaged, and less stressed out than their peers without a sense of purpose. The Wayfinder Toolkit is our contribution towards reimagining an adolescent education that supports students to build lives of purpose. Within it are tools for our next generation to develop skills and wisdom to meaningfully contribute to our world. Drawing upon purpose development research, brain science, interviews with "purpose exemplars," and practices from native wayfinding traditions, our yearlong meaning-making journey unleashes purpose in students and enriches the lives of educators.
This year, Project Wayfinder is being taught by 200 teachers to more than 4000 students at 64 schools and colleges. Our partners are located in 17 states across the US and in Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom.