How Can Teachers and Coaches Help the Teenage Mental Health Crisis?
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The teenage years are a time of transitions. These transitions can be exciting, filled with anticipation and even some apprehension. Teens are experiencing growth as they develop from children into budding young adults. While a lot of these changes are visible, there are a lot of unseen changes happening too. Mental health challenges can happen unseen and be left untreated. These challenges can have a significant impact on a teen’s learning and development. As many as 1 in 5 children have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder. Many of these don’t get the help they need. This statistic may leave you feeling a flurry of emotions. However, as a concerned adult working with teens, either as a teacher, coach, mentor, etc., you are showing a great initiative to help the teenage mental health crisis. Studies show that up to 70% of mental health problems in adolescents can be helped with early intervention. In your work with teens, you are sure to encounter teens who are struggling with trauma or mental health issues, so keep an eye out for warning signs. You may feel ill equipped to help, but there are some ways you are well suited to help teens with their mental health and potentially help them get the intervention they need. 

Ways to support a teen’s mental health

By taking a proactive and supportive approach, teachers, coaches and mentors can help contribute to addressing the teenage mental health crisis. Ways to help teens can include:

  • Create a safe environment — You can foster trust by being approachable and showing genuine concern for your students’, athletes’ or teens’ well-being. Take time to build a relationship with them by encouraging open dialogue about their mental health. Discuss mental health in a neutral and non-stigmatizing matter. You can implement and enforce anti-bullying policies and promote inclusivity to help create a sense of belonging for all teens. You can also create a space to make accommodations in your classroom to help provide teens with a supportive environment.
  • Listen actively — Practice actively listening to your teen. You can do this by making sure they have your full attention, maintaining eye contact and paraphrasing their thoughts to show you understand. Validate their feelings and emotions by acknowledging them. Take care not to show judgment or criticism. Avoid making comments that can be invalidating like, “It’s just a phase,” “You have nothing to be depressed about,” “You’re being dramatic,” etc. Use empathetic responses to show compassion and support, such as, “Your feelings are valid, and it’s OK to feel this way,” “It’s OK not to be OK. I’m here to support you,” “I believe in your strength and resilience,” etc.
  • Promote mental health awareness — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but you can incorporate mental health education throughout the school year or season. You could have workshops, bring in guest speakers or have awareness campaigns. Help educate students about common mental health disorders, their symptoms and available treatment options. You may reach a struggling student who isn’t sure how to reach out for help or is unsure if they are struggling with something more. Take steps to help normalize reaching out for support. You can share personal experiences of asking for help or other stories of resilience and recovery. 
  • Encourage self-care — Emphasize the importance of self-care, and that it’s not just bubble baths and face masks. Self-care is taking the time to take care of their whole self — adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, adequate sleep, a balanced diet and limiting screen time on social media. Emphasize the importance of setting boundaries, prioritizing tasks and seeking balance in their life. You can help teach them appropriate ways to assertively set boundaries and develop time management skills to make these changes. Introducing stress management techniques like deep breathing, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation can also be beneficial skills to help. If your schedule allows, you could take five minutes to do a whole-group stress-relieving session to help them incorporate mindfulness into their daily routine.
  • Monitor and refer — Keep a vigilant eye out for warning signs of mental health issues. These can be changes in behavior, academic performance or social interactions. If you see these signs, you can consult with school counselors or in-house mental health professionals for guidance. They can help provide information for appropriate referrals. Check in with students or athletes to make sure they are getting the necessary support. Checking in can also encourage them to follow through with recommended interventions.
  • Encourage positive relationships — Provide opportunities for and encourage teamwork, collaboration or peer support. These opportunities through group activities, projects or mentorship programs can help teens build social skills, resolve conflicts constructively, and develop empathy and compassion. Additional ways to help foster a sense of community and belonging can be through schoolwide events, clubs, extracurricular activities or team outings. 
  • Encourage asking for help — You can take steps to help normalize asking for help. You can discuss the benefits of going to therapy, counseling, or support groups; address common misconceptions about mental health conditions and treatments; and share ways they can access mental health services. Normalizing and being open about mental health conditions and services can help break down stigma and raise awareness.

Lightfully Teen can support teens’ mental health and well-being

Early intervention for teen mental health challenges is essential. At Lightfully Teen, our therapy approach uses a framework called process-based therapy to provide teens with compassionate and whole-person-centered care. Together, we can pave the way for a healthier and more fulfilling future for teens by equipping them with the tools they need to grow their resilience and mental well-being 

Change is possible. When they’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of them.

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