Thinking Biblically about Mental Health for Youth
By Bible Engagement Project Web Team and AG Youth Ministries | Posted In What Does the Bible Say
The following is a quick guide for youth pastors and parents created in partnership with AG Youth Ministries.
What this is about
- Adolescence is one of the most critical times for brain development. As a youth leader, you have the divine opportunity to help guide your students through different obstacles that impact their mental, emotional, and spiritual development.
What to remember
- Leaders need to be healthy if they are to lead students in a healthy manner. This is a both/and situation, not an either/or. You cannot expect teenagers under your leadership to be healthy if you are not healthy.
- There is such a thing as being too empathic. If you allow someone else’s situation to affect your stability, you may no longer be an effective source of support and counsel.
- The students we minister to must learn to find relief and deliverance in the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. The goal of combining psychological science and scriptural study is to become more mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy while leading students closer to Jesus.
- In the 2016–2017 school year, 1.4 million students (ages 6–18) experienced homelessness. Most unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness were 13–17 (“Children and Youth”, n.d.).
The American Psychological Association (n.d.) has found that socioeconomic status (SES) affects overall human function, including but not limited to our physical and mental well-being. So, if a child is growing up in a lower SES community, the lower SES will influence their overall health.
What the Bible says
- Personal health: Philippians 3:12–16. Consider the habits that God is working within us. How can we accept that God asks for progress, not perfection, and partners with us?
- Empathy and boundaries: Proverbs 3:5–6. It is wise to trust God’s Word over our own wisdom and judgment when they conflict. How does this truth change the way you look at your past, present, and future?
- Connection, purpose, and calling: Luke 7:1–10. Acknowledge God’s authority, and trust that He can make a way for us in our situation. Why is it so easy to become invested in others’ opinions of us that can distract us from our purpose?
- Acknowledging and overcoming adversity: Luke 5:17–26. It is important to have persevering faith when encountering obstacles. Think of how you can encourage others to persevere in their faith.
- Faith: Colossians 2:6–23. When you are rooted and built up in Christ, how does that change your view of daily situations? Look at life areas where you’ve tried to fit God in and ask Him to make faith the guiding factor in those areas.
- Overall satisfaction: Habakkuk 3:17–19. Determine that in the face of seeming defeat, you will continue to draw joy and strength from the God of your salvation. How have you seen Him provide through barren times?
Ways to pray
- Thank the Lord that He never loves you or anyone else less because of your emotional needs.
- Ask Him to reveal your current level of health and pray for awareness and clarity in any areas of weakness you may need to address.
- Ask Him to help you ensure that you exercise appropriate boundaries in interactions with students.
- Ask Him to give you joy in any season, regardless of mental health ups and downs.
- Ask Him to order your priorities biblically (the important) rather than situationally (the urgent).
Ways to take action
- Normalize the topic.
* Struggling with mental health is not completely abnormal. Dealing with feelings such as anxiety or extreme sadness is the same as experiencing negative mental health. If a student opens up to you about their struggles, encourage them to feel normal about their situation. The more normal they feel, the more likely they are to open up when they need help.
* If you are going to encourage your students to feel normal, you also need to buy into the normalcy of mental health discussion. If you are uncomfortable with the topic, it will show, and your students may not feel as though they can come to you for help when they need it.
* Encourage your students to consider seeking professional counseling by sharing about the positive impact of a Christian counselor. Speaking with a counselor allows a student to share their feelings with someone who’s professionally trained to listen and provide expert, unbiased advice.
- Come together as a church to:
* Help families find local resources and support for dealing with the illness.
* Improve people’s understanding of what mental illness is and what to expect.
* Provide training for the church to understand mental illness.
For further reading
* Visit the AG Youth Ministries website at youth.ag.org to download their devotional on six pillars of mental health for youth leaders.