I have been here at Cascade Academy for 9 months now. They have focused on teaching us how to have a balanced life. A few months ago, during one of our groups, a mentor asked me, “how do you feel about running a food drive?” At first, I thought it was dumb but throughout the process of working with my peers, I learned that through service I felt a little bit better with my depression and anxiety. Cascade was created to encourage kids to dive deep into their anxiety and depression and to face life with courage and joy.

Cascade encourages students to face their fears and jump out of their comfort zone by doing what makes them uncomfortable. They also encourage students to work together and connect concepts they are learning during treatment to the real world. Students applied these concepts by designing flyers, decorating boxes, and posters to put up around town to promote the food drive. During this process, we learned how to communicate with each other, meet deadlines, and make sure that we were organized. Through doing this food drive we were able to benefit our community by providing a source of nutrition and supplies for those who do not have access to it. I’m glad I headed up Cascade’s first food drive, it was a huge success.

So how does service help with anxiety and depression?
● Serving others and helping your community helps connect you with others. It helps improve your social skills and social network. My fellow peer Selene says “I like helping out people, I knew it was for a good cause.” Selene had to make calls and reach out to people and ask them questions about the food drive. By doing this students are helping with social anxiety and developing skills to talk to new people.

● Depression can also be improved because you’re doing good for others. It can activate serotonin in the brain which makes you happy which can make you less depressed. Volunteering and service in the community can help give you more self-confidence because doing good for others can give you a sense of accomplishment. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you’re to have a positive outlook on your future and goals.

Not a lot of students had previous service or volunteer experience which made this experience even more special. Students were able to take the leap into the comfortably uncomfortable state and overcome anxiety by making calls, reaching out, and helping complete strangers. Cascade Academy students overcame fears and gained more skills from this food drive and can’t wait to see what service project is next!

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