Words by Tess Becker
Growing up can be difficult, and especially as we advance into our teen years, the world can feel incredibly large and challenging to navigate.
On top of everything that teens already work through in their growth, there is an ongoing mental health crisis. Even before the pandemic teen mental health was slipping, and feelings of persistent sadness and hopelessness, as well as suicidal thoughts and behaviors, increased by about 40% among young people according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I see these trends in children’s mental health problems as being critical, but there are solutions,” says psychologist Kimberly Hoagwood, Ph.D., a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine. “If we refocus our efforts toward those solutions, we could see some of these tides turn.”
Preparing for a brighter future
Specialists are attempting to do that work, helping teens better manage the world around them, like Marla J. Albertie, Chief I/O Psychologist, Board President, and founder of I/O for Teens.
I/O for Teens is an organization that uses I/O psychology, or Industrial-Organizational (I-O) psychology, to empower teenagers and help them become more prepared for adulthood.
“I/O Psychology has 25 specialization areas and skillsets, which are infused in all areas of life,” they write on their website. “Teenagers need these skills as they become young adults and enter the workforce whether they attend college, become an entrepreneur, or go straight to work. Regardless of their life path I/O Psychology has skillsets they can learn from and implement.”
Some of those skill sets include leadership, job readiness, and handling inclusion and diversity.
“I fell in love with this field,” Marla tells Smiley News, “Because we as I/O psychologists, study the science behind the behavior.”
This was a field of psychology almost exclusively available and applied to adults so Marla wanted to see how useful it would be for teens.
“One day I'm driving down the road and I said, ‘How will teenagers get a chance to understand this science?’ And so I came home and Googled I/O psychology for teenagers and all that came up was graduate programs in college,” Marla says.
To remedy this she started developing the aforementioned skill set specializations in a way that teens could utilize to better themselves. The goal was to help teens flourish, whether they went straight into the workforce or into college.
“If you learn these I/O psychology principles, the science of behavior in the workplace, you'll be able to go and blossom wherever you go,” Marla says.
They’ve also begun work on community outreach programs and funds for teenagers that need help accessing their goals, with one fund for college, and the other for goals like starting a podcast, a small business, or something else similar.
Marla feels that she came into I/O psychology by accident but ended up absolutely falling in love with it.
“I knew it was deeper than just training and development. I knew it was deeper than just human resources. So there's something else out there,” Marla says.
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
American Civil Liberties Union. This is one of the largest organizations defending civil liberties in the US. Find out more and support them here.
Human Rights Campaign. This is one of the largest equality-focused organizations in the US. Find out more.
The Trevor Project. They focus on suicide prevention and mental health support for queer youth. Support them here.