3 Resources to Help Support Your Student’s Mental Health
Let’s face it, one of the key skills needed in youth ministry is resourcefulness. Who else but youth workers can stand in the middle of a Dollar General with two empty carts and manage to use their creativity to resource 5 different games for less than $30? We are used to last-minute change and we are ready to adapt when the need arises. When COVID-19 hit, youth workers across the world created, adapted, and resourced their way through it all. Even though we can react and respond to different challenges, we really hit our stride when we step into being proactive and when we have taken the time to prepare for the road ahead. Even though we may have been stuck being reactive for so long, especially as we have navigated this pandemic, I want to encourage you to take a moment to think proactively about how you can build up your mental health resources for the year ahead.
Let’s stop for a moment and look at where we are and where we are going. Even before the pandemic, we were seeing a worrying rise in mental health issues in adolescents. We know that during the pandemic we have seen more and more teenagers experience mental health issues. According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, a majority of parents, 69%, have seen a change in the child’s mental health due to remote learning. COVID restrictions have caused 59% of parents to witness their child become increasingly more socially isolated. 73% of parents also say there is an increased need for mental health support from their local school district. And about 43% of middle-schoolers are experiencing re-entry anxiety as they head back to school. What if youth ministries prepared themselves to respond to the need we know is coming up over the next year?
I want to offer three specific categories of resources that you may find useful.
The first thing you may want to consider as a resource (not just for you but perhaps your whole team) is training to respond to youth experiencing a mental health crisis. You probably already invest in CPR training (if you don’t, you should!). It is no different when it comes to mental health. There are different training resources that you can work through with your team. One of the most comprehensive and recognized training courses is Youth Mental Health First Aid. This can often be found at discounted rates and sometimes free. It provides an overview of different mental health challenges and teaches you a 5-step action plan so you can respond to a youth in crisis with both care and practical next steps.
Next up is knowing that we are limited in the responses we can give. Unless you are a licensed mental health professional, then there will come a time when you should help a student and their family access the professional support they need. One great way is to build up your local connections with therapists. One thing I do to make connections is to head over to Psychology Today. They have a section of their website where you can find a local therapist. The great part of this search is that you can select filters to find what you are looking for. This includes ages served, location, types of therapy, faith background, and price.
I encourage you to contact some of them by email or phone. If you explain that you work in the area with youth and you are trying to build your network so you can refer students to people you know, then you can usually set up at least a video call, if not arrange to meet for coffee. When the time comes and you are faced with a student experiencing a mental health crisis, you will have contacts ready to go and can take the first steps to make an introduction.
There are so many good resources out there, but I wanted to name a few that can be your first step in your own research. First up is Axis.org. They have downloadable parent guides, discussion kits, webinars and much more. You can get some of these resources for free and you can also become a member for access to a wider range of resources.
If you are wanting to explore the topic of suicide prevention, Download Youth Ministry has a free “DYMUniversity Course” that you can find here https://blog.downloadyouthministry.com/free-dymuniversity-course-suicide-prevention/
Fuller Youth Institute produced a 4-week curriculum that engages High School students in faith-filled conversations around the topic of anxiety and depression. This course includes videos, discussion guides, teaching scripts, media packs, and much more. You can find out more here https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/anxiousworld
And finally, you can download a whole library of mental health resources by heading over to Orange and downloading their resource pack with links to multiple organizations, videos https://orangeleaders.com/resources/mental-health-resources/
ABOVE ALL, caring people are going to be your biggest resource. As students return to school, as relationships continue to struggle under the stress of the unknown, as students look for ways to release their pain, and as they look at ways to numb what they are feeling – I pray for you all, caring adults that choose to stand in the gap, who are willing to have the difficult conversations, to demonstrate God’s love in action, and to seek His wisdom in all thing. May some of the things above help you in what lies ahead.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.