When mattering really matters
Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, Andrea Wittenborn (Michigan State University), emphasized that many factors play a role in depression. These factors act on different time scales, influence the onset of depression, the stress response system, immune function, social relationships, and financial resources, for example. In trying to unravel which patient might benefit from a specific treatment, Wittenborn opts for a system dynamics approach, mapping the feedback loops involved in depression. She takes into account cognitive, social, physical, and hormonal influences, amongst other factors. Mapping these feedback mechanisms offers the potential to identify new target points for interventions.
Ron Dahl, developmental scientist and professor of Public Health (UC Berkeley), stated that while puberty may be perceived as a period of vulnerability where kids are at risk to develop destructive behaviors like self-harm, it could also be seen as a unique inflection point for positive change. It is a period with increased sensitivity to social feedback, where reinforcement learning happens through trial and error. Looking at it from an evolutionary perspective, it is the moment when kids go from taking from the group to learning how to contribute to the group. Pointing at this inflection point, Dahl wondered: 'This is the age of opportunity for mastery. But what happens if, at this moment, kids are not motivated to master something of value to the group?' To develop this motivation, it is important for kids to feel that they matter. Dahl: ‘The adolescent brain is not inferior; it is remarkably well-adapted to the roles of adolescents. It is sensitive to gaining social value, often by contributing in meaningful ways.' Moving from the ancestral planes to the bustling contemporary cities, it is crucial to use this moment and alter the prestige criteria where necessary. For example, through school-based approaches or programs tackling problems with both sleep and rumination, by nurturing habits of savoring.