How I Talk to My Students About Mental Health

Jen Willard
November 19th, 2019

Your teens are struggling with mental health. Maybe not all of your teens struggle, but a good majority of the students you serve struggle with mental health issues. As a youth worker, you have the opportunity to stand in the trenches with your students and show them the love of Christ. Mental health is a topic that your students are familiar with and the church has the opportunity to bring real hope to the conversation. The following are some basic truths that I share with all of my students: 


Not because of who you are or what you have done, but because you were made in the image of God. To the students who struggle with mental health issues this could be something that they need you to vocalize often. I always try to remind my students that I love them and God loves them no matter where they are in life or emotionally. Treat your students like they have value no matter what and they will probably open up to you about some of the deeper issues they face on a daily basis. 


When students do open up to me about their mental health issues, the first thing that I remind them is that their story is valid. Many of the people God uses in the Bible most likely had some mental health issues themselves and we know God uses people in the present day who struggle so why would their story be any different. Don’t alienate students from the faith because they don’t see the way that their life fits into the biblical narrative. Speak truth and hope into students’ lives to help them see that God is still at work in their story. 


God cares for Jesus even in the moments that he cries tears of blood in anguish before he goes to the cross and God cares for our student’s deepest hurts as well. God not only sees our pain and our hurt but experiences it alongside us. If we are able to communicate to our teens that God is present in powerful ways in the darkest moments of our lives, we can come to understand that God’s presence doesn’t change for us in the highs and lows of life but can be a constant for us when we aren’t feeling grounded ourselves. 


As a youth worker you have the opportunity to be a safe space for a student. You will hear from students who have small struggles and students who have life threatening struggles. What you can offer to both of them is to be a safe space to come to. We can be a sounding board for students to share their deepest hurts, fears, or anxieties to if we allow time for deep conversation with our students. Give space to share with all your students that you take seriously mental health issues and you or other trusted volunteers are available to meet with them. 

If your student is struggling with more than you feel like you can help them with or if you are concerned for their safety, you can also be the person that points them to other safe spaces such as therapists, hospitals, or even conversations with their parents or guardians. You can encourage your students that seeking help from other sources is normal and that our bodies sometimes need to have help to process our environment. It would be a good idea to begin building relationships with mental health professionals in your area if you are serious about discussing mental health with your students so that you can assist your students in finding further help.

Jen Willard

Jen Willard is currently the full time Youth Pastor at church near Little Rock, AR. She loves continually learning about ministry and is a graduate of Nazarene Theological Seminary’s MDiv program. Jen loves drinking coffee and traveling to new places with her husband Bryan. Follow her on Instagram at @duckjd.

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.