Childhood and adolescence are crucial periods for laying the foundations for healthy personal development and mental well-being. There is compelling evidence that active promotion of flourishing and mental well-being through prevention interventions, when implemented effectively, can reduce risk factors for mental disorders and enhance protective factors for good mental and physical health.
Improved flourishing leads to lasting positive effects on a range of personal, educational, social and economic outcomes for young people. Positive psychology (PP) is a relatively new branch of psychology that offers an effective framework to promote a sustainable development for flourishing and mental health of youngsters. PP uses scientific understanding and effective (non-formal) interventions to aid in the active promotion of optimal personal development rather than treating mental illnesses. Typical topics of interest are states of pleasure or flow, values, strengths, virtues, talents, compassion, optimism, resilience and intrinsic motivation.
Besides this interest in the promotion of personal development, there is considerable concern with creating the ideal circumstances for individuals to thrive, through promotion of supportive social systems, positive relations, positive experiences and positive institutions. Through the promotion of programs that make use of the elements of PP, gender inequalities and negative stereotypes surrounding minority ethnic groups can be addressed and combated.
Since this project has a great focus on the practical side of PP for youth work. The participants learnt how they can design an experiential and non-formal project for youth that facilitates and stimulates personal development. They learnt that in the first place by experiencing themselves several exercises and next learn how they can design/apply these methods in their youth work by creating new projects that are based on the method customized to their target group. Participants learnt to cooperate with other youth workers from different cultures and improve their skills in designing good quality projects for the enhancement of mental health of youth using the method of positive psychology. This resulted in an increased empowerment and level of self-efficacy of the participants to apply the acquired competences into their own organizations.
The course was facilitated by a team of three trainers that have experience in training social and youth workers. The team was consisted of Laura Weiss PhD who has done extensive research on enhancing mental health in vulnerable groups. She currently works as a University Researcher in South Africa and has worked for the Happiness Academy in the Netherlands. She was assisted by Thomas Albers, a psychologist with a special focus on nature to enhance well-being and Sebastian Weesjes, a personal development and leadership coach.
Training course took place from 8.9. till 14.9.2019 in Cortemilia in Italy. Participating countries in this project were Hungary, Croatia, Greece, Ireland, Netherland, Slovenia, Spain and Italy. Project has been funded by the Erasmus + programme. Photos from a personal archive of Irena Ivnik.