Youth Mental Health and Well-Being

Having worked with young people from diverse backgrounds in a variety of settings for over 30 years, MMP Program Manager Rosie McMahan led a training on April 28th titled “Youth Mental Health and Well-Being in Mentor/Mentee Relationships.”  Emphasizing that resiliency is real and that healing happens, she outlined a number of the struggles that young people faced pre-COVID. She also proposed that even without the research to confirm what the impact will be, the incidence of mental health difficulties is likely to increase post-COVID. As always, our work, as youth practitioners in a variety of roles -- both personal and professional -- is to offer hope, role model strategies to take care of oneself, and mitigate the harms as best we can. During the course of the training, attendees were offered multiple opportunities to talk with one another about how culture influences their ability to listen and share their perspectives on well-being. One participant shared, “I found the breakout rooms really enjoyable and loved the definition of mental health.” Another person said, “The discussions of everyone’s experiences with youth throughout the pandemic were great.” Rosie emphasized both general and specific things that adults can do (see below) to empower youth to survive their injuries and thrive in the days ahead. She, herself, identifies as a survivor activist and sees, again and again, the ways in which young people flourish, in part, because of the relationships they have with adults who care about them.

Below are some of the key takeaways from the training on Youth Mental Health and Well-Being:

Mental Health is a state of well-being in which an individual: 

  • Realizes their own capabilities

  • Can cope with the normal stresses of life

  • Can work or go to school productively

  • Can contribute to their community in meaningful ways

General Things You Can Do:

  • Think about mental health as an important component of a child being “ready to learn;” if a child is experiencing mental health problems, he or she will likely have trouble focusing in school.

  • Know the warning signs of mental illness and take note of these in your students and seek consultation from the school mental health professional when you have concerns; psychological and/or educational testing may be necessary. Know the warning signs of mental illness and take note of these in your students and seek consultation from the school mental health professional when you have concerns; psychological and/or educational testing may be necessary.

  • Use the mental health professional(s) at school as resources for: preventive interventions with students, including social skills training; education for teachers and students on mental health; crisis counseling for teachers and students following a traumatic event; and classroom management skills. 

  • Allow your youth to discuss troubling events at school or in the community; encourage students to verbally describe their emotions.

  • Receive training in screening and early identification models to help identify young people at current risk and link them to support online or over the phone. 

(From Mental Health First Aid 2016/National Council on Behavioral Health)

Specific Things You Can Do:

  • Talk privately about your concerns at a mutually convenient time in a place free of distractions. 

  • Be aware that a person may not open up to you until they are sure that you care. 

  • A young person may downplay what they are going through to avoid upsetting you. 

  • Let the young person know you are ready when they are — do not put pressure on them to talk right away. 

Remember:

  • Respect youth and their experiences

  • Be mindful of language and expressions

  • Recognize what might make it hard for a youth to ask for help

  • Set aside your own beliefs and reactions to focus on the needs of the youth to be heard, understood and helped

  • Ensure you do not express judgments

RESOURCES:  

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) [24/7 Hotline] 1-888-628-9454 (Spanish) 1-800-799-4889 (TTY) This hotline is available 24 hours a day.

What do we really know about kids and screens By: Stephanie Pappas 

More Than Ever, We Must Prioritize the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Children By: Rachel Velcoff Hults, National Center of youth Law and Dr. Steven Adelsheim, Stanford Psychiatry Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing

MMP Resources 

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For more information about Mass Mentoring Training and Consultation Services, contact: Janeen Smith at JSmith@massmentors.org.