Hardship and trauma deeply impact young people across our country. Youth For Christ equips leaders to help young people be resilient in the midst of their struggles.
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Addressing Mental Health
66% of students admit to feeling anxious about the beginning of the school year, and mental health issues are on the rise in high schools across the country. Youth ages 12-17 have the highest reports of anxiety, depression, and behavioral disorders. In light of these troubling statistics, many Americans are questioning the best approaches to address the growing mental health crisis in today’s youth.
Youth For Christ (YFC) has stressed the importance of tackling youth mental health for 78 years, coming alongside youth during pivotal moments of their lives and building powerful relationships rooted in the Gospel. YFC offers a variety of methods to reach young people, such as its Campus Life, Juvenile Justice, and Parent Life ministries.
Angel Terrero, Miami YFC site director and a mental health counselor, mentors and disciples youth who have interacted with the juvenile justice system in the greater Miami area. Terrero uses his experience as a mental health counselor to both connect with teens as well as teach other leaders how to address the situations with today’s youth.
“It’s easy for us to think ‘I know what teenagers are going through because I was a teenager once,’ but it’s not the same,” Terrero said. “We were all once teenagers, but we have no idea what it’s like to be a teenager in today’s society. We have no idea what it’s like to be a teenager growing up in a society that has dealt with a pandemic or essentially creates self-worth through an image on social media and the way that people react. It’s so important to hear what these youth are feeling in response to the traumatic incidents they’ve had to deal with.
“Trauma creates walls that make it difficult for teenagers to connect with others. We all experience trauma in some regard, but what is deemed traumatic for one person might not be the same for another. Youth leaders need to acknowledge areas in a youth’s life where they may have gone through an event that would be deemed as traumatic and listen with care and respect.”
Terrero continued, “When somebody goes through trauma, it’s almost like there is an overload of stress chemicals being poured into that person’s brain that has long-lasting effects. This is particularly concerning as a teenager’s brain is still developing. When they go through traumatic experiences, it hinders that brain development, leading teens to question their identity and place in the world.”
Finding Identity Through Christ
This is why YFC is dedicated to encouraging and supporting today’s youth as they wrestle with these difficult issues. By building meaningful relationships with youth, YFC leaders live out the love of Christ and show youth that they care about them — even through their mental health crises.
Terrero concluded, “I think we almost have to train ourselves to approach youth not with the thought of, ‘Tell me what’s wrong with you,’ but more with the thought of, ‘What happened to you that you are experiencing these issues and how can I build a relationship with you to understand what you are going through?’ Our goal should not be to tell youth what to do, but rather to walk alongside them as they are going through their own mental health journey.
“I just pray that today’s youth find their identity not in their mental health trauma, but rather in Christ.”
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