Our world is hurting right now. And I don’t mean just with everything with COVID the past year. We have been hurting for a while. One of the concerns that hits close to home for me is how our youth and young adults are struggling. The concern for our youth and young adult’s mental health has continued to increase. The CDC reports that there has been a 57.4% increase in suicide rates with individuals aged 10-24 between 2007 and 2018. That is a HUGE number. Our teens are struggling; How can we help?
Personal Experience of Struggling
I was raised in an abusive, neglectful home and suffered from depression and anxiety as well as suicidal ideation. I attempted to take my own life twice when I was a teen; which I talk more about in my blog post My Suicide Attempt: Loneliness Does Not Have To Consume You. I have been in that space, I have been at my lowest of lows. I was struggling and have struggled in similar ways into my young adulthood. However, in my childhood, I did have individuals come alongside me and be there for me which made the world of difference in my life. Our teens are struggling: How can we help?
Many of us have adolescents or teens in our lives. Whether they are our own kids, youth group kids at church, students, etc. We have many interactions with them in our daily or weekly lives, and sometimes we pick up on their struggles and maybe sometimes we don’t. But let me tell you…the power of connection is huge. To sit there and be there with them, connecting, can change their lives.
I had a few amazing people come along side of me in my youth and make a connection. A teacher who saw me struggling with family situations who took the time out of her day to listen to what I was going through, a mentor of mine helped keep me busy, listened, made space for me, hugged me, and supported me, and someone who has become a mom to me. The biggest thing each of these people did for me was connecting with me and making me feel heard, valued, and loved. Connection changed my life.
How Can Connection Help?
Growing up, one thrives on connection. The connection that they feel with friends, teachers, and most importantly, their parents. In my situation, I did not have connection with either one of my parents, I did not make very close friendships out of fear of getting hurt or rejected and I had a hard time connecting with anyone. But when I did, I started to see a shift in myself. I craved that feeling.
To be seen by another human being and be even a little understood by them changes the heart of someone who is struggling. After my second suicide attempt, even after turning my life to Christ, I still struggled because I did not feel seen. I still felt empty. But then one person came into my life that made me feel seen, heard, and loved and it changed me. I am not saying everything was healed right away, but it did help me feel not so alone. That is what connection does. Our teens are struggling: How can we help?
Listen To Understand
One of the phrases growing up that I heard A LOT was “You are just a kid, what in the world do you have to be stressed about?” This crushed my spirit and made me feel so much more unloved and misunderstood. I felt like my emotions and feelings were invalid because of my age. I felt like I was not allowed to feel certain ways because others had it worse than I did. When the individuals in my life that cared took the time to ask me how I was feeling and actually cared about my response it gave me a sense of belonging.
When someone comes up to us and wants to discuss thoughts and feelings about something, taking the time to hear them out and not minimize them can make a huge difference; and when a teen does it, it could make more of a difference than you may think. Listening to understand, to let the person be seen and feel what they need to feel, that is power.
A Simple Text Can Do It
When it comes to mental health, I feel like people get intimidated. They don’t know what to say to someone in crisis or how to help. They get uncomfortable with big emotions and feelings. I think as a society we underestimate the power of one person.
Sometimes it only takes one person and possibly one moment to change someone’s life forever. I am not saying you need to go find a stranger in crisis and do everything in your power to help them, but what I am saying is that you have people-adolescents, teens, adults, etc.-in your life that could use a “Hey, I haven’t talked with you in a while, but I have been thinking about you and wanted to see how you’re doing” text.
It Only Takes One Person
I was sitting in my car and in a dark place. Intruding dark thoughts were invading and then my phone went off. An unexpected text from someone I did not expect to be texting me in that moment. Just checking in and saying hello and that they loved me. That shift in knowing that I am not alone in this made a huge difference that day and gave me the encouragement I needed.
Life has thrown me some tough curve balls; I did not have an easy upbringing and it took me a while to get the help that I needed. I am healing and continuing to do so…and I couldn’t have done it without the people in my life that stood beside me and helped by being that one person I needed in that moment of my life. Our teens are struggling; How can we help? To connect, to listen, and be that one person to help them with what they need in that moment or season.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of The We Spot, it’s employees, sponsors, or affiliates.