Mental Health, Youth Ministry

3 Situations, 3 Observations, 3 Questions, 3 Ideas

Three Situations:

  1. When I asked my high school students recently to list the top three emotions most teenagers probably feel, happy/joyful made that list, but “anxious” took the number one spot.
  2. Our church hosts a weekly conversation cafe focusing on a variety of topics. Normally, a handful of people show up each Monday. Last week, the topic was anxiety and the room was packed.
  3. On this little blog where I post about random life and books I’m reading and what God’s been showing me, most posts get read by a few friends and family members. I posted the other day about mental health and mental illness and there were over 450 views and dozens of shares.

Three Observations:

  1. These issues are real and relevant in our lives.
  2. People are longing to talk about these issues that impact them and those they love.
  3. While a stigma unfortunately remains, people are more open to sharing mental health challenges than perhaps ever before.

Three Questions:

  1. What does it look like to seek, and help others find, peace in very anxious times?
  2. How can this be obviously such a huge topic in people’s lives and there still be crazy stigma about it all?
  3. How do we keep the conversations going?

Three Ideas:

  1. Give each other grace.
    In addition to learning more about mental health recently, I’ve also discovered a lot about the fact that people are around us are dealing with things we can’t see. After sharing an update from a recent doctor’s visit, a coworker (who I see basically every day) texted to basically say “I had no clue you were still dealing with the impacts of your surgery or that this would be such a long ordeal.” A friend who actually had the same surgery as I did and is keenly aware of the challenges it can bring stopped me on one of the hardest days to say “You’re looking great! Your thyroid must be kicking in just fine.” It wasn’t.
    All that to say, what we see is not always what’s really going on. Whether it is an illness, stress at work, a sick family member, parents going through a divorce, or one of a million other things, we each have stuff we’re dealing with. And while we can’t miraculously know someone’s struggling if they act like life is fine, maybe the better assumption is that everyone is dealing with some kind of struggle in a given day. Let’s lead with grace instead of assuming the worst.
  2. Speak only words that make souls stronger.
    If it’s true that we’re all dealing with hard things mixed among the good things, let’s speak life and hope into people around us. Call out the good you see them doing. Thank them for being brave enough to face this crazy world. Speak well of them in front of them and behind their backs.
    Kid President has a lot to say about this like. My two favorite quotes of his are,
    “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, you’re not thinking hard enough.” and
    “Give people high-fives just for getting out of bed. Being a person is hard sometimes.”
    Sometimes hard or challenging words are needed especially with those closest to us, but this lens from Ephesians 4:29 is a good one as we sort through what is appropriate… will these words tear others down or make their souls stronger?
  3. Take care of yourself.
    Our world of anxiety and fear, depression and suicide, is also a world that pushes us to go farther, do more, work harder, be perfect. I’m sure there’s a correlation in there somewhere. It’s hard work to stand up against those pressures, but it is necessary. We must care for ourselves if we’re going to be able to care for others and do all the crazy awesome things God has called us to do in this world. I am so thankful for the many people speaking this truth into my life right now. The specifics of this look different for each person and each season of life, but do something today to take care of yourself. Your future self, along with all those around you, will thank you.

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