Mental Health: 3 Ways To Help Students
By Ben Bennett • ResolutionMovement.org • Dallas, Texas
By age eight, I was experiencing anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Life felt unbearable. I struggled to make it through each day due to the overwhelming emotions, fear, confusion, and thoughts. These challenges plagued me throughout my adolescent years, and I felt alone throughout it all.
Eventually, God led me through a 12+ year journey of healing and freedom and birthed in me a passion for the intersection of theology, psychology, and neuroscience. This led to starting the Resolution Movement to help the many others today struggling with similar issues as I was.
Mental health issues among youth are on the rise. For example, 70% of teens say anxiety and depression are major issues amongst their peers1. It can be hard to know what to do about these issues, so I pray you find hope through these three crucial steps.
1. Regularly talk about it.
Talking about mental health is common among Gen Z, unlike previous generations. Recent research from Barna reveals that “connecting with a person other than family” and “talking with someone” are the primary actions Gen Z takes to feel better when experiencing anxiety and loneliness.2 They’re willing, but as youth leaders are we regularly engaging the subject and helping them process through these struggles?
2. Help youth discover the “why” behind their mental health struggles.
God created us with relational needs (Genesis 2:18). He created us with heart desires and longings that drive everything we do (Proverbs 4:23). We have legitimate needs and desires-to be loved, known, accepted, connected, safe, and more. When these needs go unmet or outright rejected, struggles ensue.
For example… Loneliness isn’t caused by a lack of friends, it’s caused by a lack of meaningful connection.
Anxiety isn’t simply caused by stress or worry, it’s caused by fear of rejection and a lack of safety.
Depression and suicidal thoughts aren’t random, it’s rejection, comparison, abuse, a sense of failure or worthlessness that leads someone there.
Ultimately, our unmet longings lead to mental health struggles. Once individuals discover the “why” behind the struggle, they can figure out what they need and move towards a solution.
This article by Ben Bennett is one of 8 articles in the current Youth Leaders Only Digital Box themed “Troubled Kids/Hurting Kids: Youth Ministry & The Mental Health Crisis” Get all 8 articles by clicking here. Youth Leaders Only, in its 38th year, helps youthworkers in thousands of churches be aware of the music their students are listening to, use all forms of music in their ministries, and equip their students to make wise choices about the music & media they have in their earbuds 9 hours every day. A membership costs less than the price of a pizza each month!
3. Help youth develop healthy habits.
Daily decisions set direction and determine the destination. The following daily habits will help youth grow in their spiritual, emotional, and mental well-being.
Connect in meaningful ways with God and others. Process uncomfortable emotions, fears, and feelings. Talk about their life, cares, dreams, and what God is doing.
Reduce technology use. There are nothing wrong with social media, video games, and streaming videos but these can lead to disconnection, comparison, and unhealthy coping versus processing life in healthy ways.
Read the Bible and experience God’s presence.
Help youth to have self-compassion and believe who God says they are.
I’ve witnessed God use these steps to bring healing, freedom, and health to countless others and pray that God will use these in the lives of those you care about.
For more resources on mental health, visit the Resolution Movement and check out our brand new small group video series that explores principles from this post in depth.
2 Barna, Gen Z Vol 2 (Ventura, CA 2021), 22-23.