Mental Health Still Matters

By Lindsey Ervin, Social-Emotional Services Coordinator

As if our teens weren’t dealing with enough stress and anxiety before the pandemic, they certainly are getting a daily dose of what could become toxic stress now. It’s critical we continue to monitor our teens and help them process and understand their thoughts and feelings during this season. Toxic stress impacts the way our brains function, and in developing brains it’s even more important that we help them combat stress with lifestyle adjustments and tools to help them calm their nervous systems, regulate their strong emotions, and help them establish healthy mindsets.

Author Melissa Maimone writes, “like every part of your body, the brain requires care and upkeep. Given the right circumstances (like a stressful job or being cooped up in your home for six weeks) and the wrong diet (like 24-hour news), any brain can behave in decidedly unhealthy ways. Sometimes it will come up with thoughts that feel true even they aren’t. If you assume your brain is always thinking healthy, correct thoughts, you’re not paying attention to your mental health.”

In light of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, we’ve put together resources and suggestions to promote mental health for you and your teen.

Counseling

Consider counseling before a crisis. This summer could be a good time to begin attending counseling sessions. Counseling offers wonderful tools, strategies, and coping mechanisms to help your teen develop new thought patterns and effective ways to process their emotions. It’s like going to the gym for their brains. Counseling can help them build greater emotional resilience and “muscle” for when times get tough.

Below are just a few of our local, vetted Christian, clinical counseling organizations we partner with. If you are seeking a specialty or have questions about insurance, please email me for a personal referral. Many professional counselors and organizations, including the ones listed below, are willing to work with your family during this time via teletherapy and offer a sliding scale or lower-cost options. Many practices are still serving clients in person.

If you find your teen is expressing feelings of depression, hopelessness or despair please do not delay seeking treatment through the help of a counselor or emergency walk-in clinics such as:

Students concerned about a friend – Safe 2 Tell – 1-877-542-7233

Strategies for Home

Create an environment at home that is safe for your teen to open up about their feelings – that means taking care of your emotions and mental health, too! There are also some very simple parenting strategies that support our teen’s mental health:

  • Validate and affirm their feelings – even when they seem irrational to you. Most of the time teens just want to be heard. In the less-structured pace of summer, your teen may feel some of the stress they were not able to fully process during the last couple of months of school. Affirming their experience and asking them open-ended questions can help support their emotional process.
  • Continue to encourage them – stand firm on your family’s “non-negotiables” and offer heaps of grace and love. Letting the little things go and preserving your relationship with your teen will go a long way to support the mental health of the family.
  • Help your teen stay connected to a healthy faith community – getting involved in a church, youth group, or bible study can support your student’s overall well-being by encouraging them in the truth.

Mental Health Toolkit

These practical resources can be helpful for both you and your teen:

Finally, if anyone in your family suffers from mental illness, and you are looking for faith-based mental health resources and support groups, I recommend Grace Alliance and My Quiet Cave. Please feel free to reach out to me if I can be of any service to your family during this time.

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