Written By: Ben Bennett
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 peers.1 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.
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.
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’s nothing wrong with social media, video games, and streaming videos but these can lead to disconnection, comparison, and unhealthy coping verses 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 our brand new small group video series that explores principles from this post in depth.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, check out josh.org/counseling for professional resources. Also, check out the FASTER Scale to consider how circumstances and challenges in your life may be triggering your struggles.