Mental Health & Wellness (1)
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As YTH leaders we must be prepared to address mental health issues. Mental health is not a single issue problem. It is comprehensive. When dealing with teenagers with mental health issues we must use a variety of ways to help them through the difficulties of mental health maturity.
Did you catch that? Mental health growth.
Whether it is social, relational, spiritual, physical, nutritional, or clinical help, whatever kind of path we take it will no doubt include all or some of these approaches to mature in adolescent mental health.
There are many triggers to poor mental health. It could be a chemical imbalance, family history, pervasive influence of Social Media comparisons, the gaming role-play violence, Madison Avenue marketing, PTSD, or even the break-up of the family system. Whatever the cause of poor mental health, the reality is that we have seen a rise in depression, and, ultimately, suicide in the Millennial and the Gen Z set.
These triggers will be seen in varying degrees. And some people will exhibit some or a combination of these - If they show signs at all. I have learned that observation is a full time job because many people have conditioned themselves to cope (or hide) these signs. So it will be important to look for coping mechanisms such as denial, isolation, or even anger and aggression.
As YTH leaders, when we see triggers or behavior in young people, how can we counter the mental health issues and depression? How do we recognize these, and other contributing issues, at center stage of the destruction of teenage self-esteem and mental health? Afterall, the teen years should be the greatest days of a teenagers life.
A Working Definition
Let’s deal with one aspect of mental health. Depression.
Depression can be seen as a severe dejection, sadness, and despondency. It creates isolation, confusion, and fear. It generally is considered long-term, but, it can come and go in various levels for a short period of time also. There are many troubling signs when it comes to depression.
As a YTH Leader, to identify students who are struggling with depression, here are just a few things you should be looking for:
Poor academic performance in school
Withdrawal from family, friends, and activities
Sadness and hopelessness
Lack of enthusiasm, energy, or motivation
Anger and rage and aggressiveness
Overreaction to criticism
Feelings of being unable to satisfy ideals
Poor self-esteem, cutting, or bodily harm
Indecision or lack of concentration and forgetfulness
Changes in eating or sleeping or behavioral patterns
Problems with the family, or community, or authority
And ultimately suicidal thoughts or actions
With this as a foundation, let’s look at how to deal with depression in teenagers lives. This is always a timely message, but, often suicide becomes a viral response after the knowledge of someone taking their life. Others have often followed in the wake of someone else’s decision to end their life.
4 Approaches to Mental Health Maturity
Worth - We must help students understand who they are in Christ. Ephesians 2 says that we are his workmanship. That’s great news! Because that means that God is not finished with us. It is one of the first things I do in addressing teenagers in difficulty like depression or suicidal behavior. Let them know they are under construction and this phase they are in will be completed soon.
Words - Words are one of the most important things in our lives. I’m sure you remember negative things that were said against you at some point when you were growing up. And how these affected you. We must teach teenagers to counter the negativity in their world and to learn how to speak to themselves. Some of our best mental health can come from ourselves.
Wellness - I know that this is controversial. But I’m going to address it anyway. Remember what I said about mental health being comprehensive. Wellness is part of the healing and growth of our personhood. And because there is a lack of exercise and play in our society this play deprivation and inactivity has slowed our sensoral intuition and growth.
We - This may be one of the best ways to mental health growth. There’s a university of help in the people around us. Once you realize you’re not the only one who has an issue, it becomes much easier to talk to someone else. All of us should have someone in our life that we are communicating to.
Referral is not failure.
And this leads us to one of the most important points of mental health - clinical counseling. Referral is not failure. Referral is not failure. Did you hear me? Sometimes a referral can lead us to the answer. That might be coping habits, problem-solving skills, and/or ultimately medication. Do not be afraid to get help at the professional level.
Help! My Students Are Depressed
These should be the best days of a teenagers life. Yet, dealing with depression in teenagers can be difficult - not just because of the aforementioned triggers - but because they haven’t developed their brain and necessary critical thinking skills. Use these 4 practical approaches in your YTH leadership and be pro-active to address mental health issues in your teens.
Finally, ask for help. All of us have an issue. All of us have something that we would like to change. All of us have something that we would rather not share with people. But that is dangerous. Every one of us should have somebody that we can talk to honestly. If you are seeing depression in students, try using these preventative actions. You may be able to curb the downhill spiral if you catch it quickly.
1.800.273.8255 (suicide hotline)