One-quarter of teens will struggle with an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.

This past year, I did a series on Anxiety, depression, and suicide called, “I’m not ok.” One of the things that happened was something that I wasn’t prepared for.  People started to say, “I’m not ok.”  Lot’s of different people started to say this, Christian students, unchurched students, leaders, families, parents.  I was overwhelmed by the response.

There is a rise in anxiety in our culture.  People are more anxious than ever.  But, it left me asking why?  Why are people more anxious than ever?

Reason for the rise in anxiety. 

According to research from elements behavioral health, they share the reason why anxiety is on the rise. “Some put the blame on cultural changes. They say that our society’s increasing materialism over the years has eroded personal relationships and families. We now value money and personal luxuries more than relationships. This explanation can answer the question of increased anxiety for both adults and teens.”

If that is one of the reasons why teenagers are silently struggling with anxiety and depression, it must make us wonder, how can we help?  How can we help the 20% in our youth ministries who are silently dying?

How do we help young people who are struggling with anxiety?

Help them understand that we are not a counselor.  You most likely are not a counselor.  The precursor that we said every night when we ran this series on mental health was that.  We are not a professional counselor.

Help students know that it’s ok to be not ok.  That is a slogan that we used.  It really helped set the tone for the series.  Students that struggle with mental illnesses usually feel alone, and the only one who is actually dealing with that particular struggle.  This isn’t true, and saying I’m not ok, starts the journey towards healing.

Students are struggling alone, feeling like they are the only ones dealing with mental illness.  You can help them.  It might start by helping them understand that it’s ok to be not ok.

Help students tell parents how they feel.  Parents aren’t the enemy, they are the Ally.  They are the one who is going to help their kid get counseling, or get on medication from a doctor.  One of the policies we have in my youth ministry is to give the student 24 hours to tell their parent/guarding before we do.

Bring the parent into the story of the student.  During this series, I sat in my office with students telling them that their parents love them, and what the best for them.  Parents aren’t the problem, and we need to help students see that.

Help students get counseling.  Can you recommend a counselor?  If you can’t, start asking around.  Some churches have counseling centers built in, but at the least, you need to know of a great counselor.  One of the best uses of your youth ministry budget each year to set aside some money to offer students a counseling session for free.  I often pay for the first session for a student.

Getting students talking to someone now will help prevent major issues in the future.

It’s crucial for you to know that you are not a counselor, and it’s ok to refer a student to one.  This allows you to disciple a student through mental illness issues while the counselor does the deep work.

Help students get on medication.  There is nothing wrong with being on medication.  The students need to know that.  It’s not a sin issue, but it is a result of the fall.  Medication isn’t the first response, but the last response.  Get them in touch with a doctor.  Hopefully, the counselor can help get the student on medication if needed.

I think that getting the parents involved, and then a counselor can best help a student get the best medical help.  Students who are struggling, need a team to support and love them.  You will be able to do this when you have brought in the right people.

When all else fails.

Pray.  Pray like crazy for students.  This is such a difficult time for so many students.  When all else fails, I am reminded to constantly be praying for the people in my ministry.

 

I am so thankful that you are there for them.  That you can pray for them, and with them.  That you are the one who might help that one student who has struggled for months about depression and suicide.