This past Saturday, I got to spend the entire day learning about the mental health of young people with youth director friends. It was a very long day (started at 8 AM in Livingston), but the instructor thankfully made the very tough subject enjoyable. One thing I learned was that the median age of the initial diagnosis of anxiety is now 7, down from 12 a few years ago. I also learned that 1 in 4 teens have a mental health issue, which includes things like ADHD, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and others.
At the training, we were taught to listen, to refer, and to let young people know that they are not alone in their struggles. We were also trained to notice behavior or moods changing, especially if something that was once enjoyable was dropped but not replaced with another activity. My biggest takeaway was that young people really do need adults in their lives that are paying attention to them and checking in on them so that they can grow up well.
Relationships with parents and children can begin at Vacation Bible School. We can show children that the church is a safe place for them to make friends and that there are other adults that really care about them. Once we form relationships, we can notice if things change in a young person’s life, or we might be an adult friend who can listen to problems that are stressors in their life. I hope that you will choose to invest in the lives of the children of our church and community through Vacation Bible School or some other means. You can register to volunteer here: https://tmab.cokesburyvbs.com/GraceInTheHeights