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The Balancing Act: Mental Health Awareness


Youth smiling.

Managing life stressors as an adult can be complex and challenging. Now, imagine a young child or teen. It can be devastating, scary, and severely overwhelming, leading to a ripple effect of mental and emotional health concerns. This impact may leave not only the child feeling helpless or hopeless but many times the parents as well, especially in Christian communities. 


Why may this be?


In Christian communities, we tend to focus mainly or solely on spiritual health, which is essential and a significant role in our faith journey; however, ignoring the other forms of health can lead to imbalance. We live in a physical world, in physical bodies, dealing with physical things that affect our mental and emotional well-being. Though we are spirit beings seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), we should not neglect the physical, mental, or emotional parts of us. This statement includes regarding our children. 



As parents, caretakers, guardians, and other authoritative figures in a child's/teen's life, we must become more engaged and aware of our youth's mental wellness. According to the CDC, the suicide rate among people aged 10–24 remained stable from 2001 through 2007 and then increased 62% from 2007 through 2021. The drastic increase is mind-staggering!



A quote by Equalla Foster. In Christian communities, we tend to focus mainly or solely on spiritual health, which is essential and a significant role in our faith journey; however, ignoring the other forms of health can lead to imbalance.

What can we do?


Mental Health Awareness is a treasure.


Educate ourselves. There are various ways to expand our knowledge of resources, tools, professionals, and organizations that offer assistance in the mental health arena. Today, with access to the World Wide Web, this is one of the easiest ways to connect to suitable methods. Start with local, state, and national-level resources. 


Here are a few links you may find helpful:



Speak with medical and mental health professionals. Inform and partner with your child's educators and school counselors to collaborate on the best protocol to help the child as they navigate through a mental or emotional crisis. Communication is vital during these times. And yes, pray. Seek God and the counsel of your pastors or spiritual leaders who can offer support, godly wisdom, and comfort during unprecedented times of your life. We do not have to live life alone unless we choose to.


1 Thessalonians 5:23, Amplified Bible, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [that is, separate you from profane and vulgar things, make you pure and whole and undamaged-consecrated to Him-set apart for His purpose]; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete and [be found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.


The realization is that the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual are more connected than we think. Let's be purposeful about learning to manage ourselves better and showing our young people how to do the same. In their emotional toolkit, the child should have easily accessible tangible and intangible things to help them navigate a difficult time. Coping strategies are basic life essentials, though they do not provide permanent solutions. However, it can be life-saving!


Examples:

  • Going on a walk or run. 

  • Listening to relaxing sounds or music.

  • Reading a favorite book.

  • Praying.

  • Breathing exercises.

  • Writing down feelings or negative thoughts and talking to a trusted person.

  • Engage in something fun, playful, and creative.

  • Cry. Sometimes, a good release is what is needed.


When a child is not seemingly 100% themselves mentally, just as someone would monitor closely if not feeling their best physically, so should it be about mental health. Recovery (the process), resiliency (the ability to bounce back after a disappointment or crisis), and rest (physical and the reduction or elimination of stressors) are three components for healing, strengthening, and hope. Our future leaders deserve a promising tomorrow skilled not only with intellect and spiritual care but also love, support, and wisdom gems for acts of kindness toward themselves and others.


Let's lead by a healthy example.


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