4 Things Teens Want Adults to Know About Mental Health

As a parent, caregiver, or someone who works with teens, it can be overwhelming to read the latest articles and opinion pieces from adults on the current teen mental health crisis. There are seemingly endless stories about how kids are struggling; an avalanche of triggering data; and no stories of success or what’s working, or discussion of solutions about how to make things better. So we turned to our high school interns for insight. 


Our interns shared a few things they want us, as adults in their lives, to know:


1. “If you blame social media, you will make it worse.”

Adults seem to focus just on the bad parts of social media. There’s a “just say no” sentiment that seems to permeate the connection between social media and mental health. Social media can be a lifeline for youth, especially for kids who may feel marginalized at school, social media can be the network where they belong. When adults talk about social media as the cause of teens’ anxiety and depression, teens can feel even more isolated and disconnected from adults. 

Instead of blaming social media, we invite you to connect with your young person about social media by talking about what positive things they see in social media, what’s funny, what’s good about it, and in what ways it helps them feel connected to others. 


2. “Therapists aren’t always the answer.”

While the right therapist can be very helpful, our interns reminded us that therapists are still adults, ones they don’t know very well, and, just like school, they need to be on time. Imani, our 17-year-old intern says, “Creative groups, like from Girls Leadership, are easier.” 

Even though there’s an adult present, the conversations are more with other kids their own age. The most powerful takeaway from groups is that they aren’t alone in their experience. 


3. “We don’t always want to ‘talk it out.’”

Think about it: when you’re going through something, how do you feel when someone in your life is always saying, “Let’s talk about it,” or perhaps even more challenging, “How do you feel?” Sometimes youth just want a break from thinking about or feeling hard things. One girl told us the most helpful thing was to listen to music to move her through a hard feeling. It’s okay to just be in the same room, doing different activities, or just being in each other’s presence without processing the current challenge. It’s reassuring for teens to know that you’re there, that you want to be there, and that you care. That sense of belonging at home or in the classroom, is so important to them, whether they tell you that or not. 


4. “This is what we’ve always known.”

This mental health crisis is not a surprise to teens. They’ve always known it to be this way — kids are depressed and anxious, and they say it’s always been like that. Our high school interns politely requested for us not to freak out, us adults being in crisis about their crisis didn’t help. We need to do our work to take care of our own well-being so that we can be grounded enough to support our youth through this time. 


Girl & Grown-up Workshops Professional Development Training

If our current offerings don’t work for you, we can customize a professional development training to meet your staff’s needs, whether you’re looking to run a single workshop, a half-day, full-day, or multi-day training. Reach out to info@girlsleadership.org to explore a custom training for your community.

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