Church Now Conversations
with Kara Powell
Faith in an Anxious World
There is a surge in mental health questions right now.
- Why are we seeing so much anxiety?
- About ⅓ of the US population will deal with anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
- Mental health hotlines are seeing a 40% increase during the pandemic; the majority of phone calls are coming from young people.
- Schools are talking about it; churches and families aren’t. We need to talk about it because we care about our kids. Young people need a safe adult to talk to about their mental health.
- We don’t fully know why there’s more mental health challenges, but there are things that may be related to the increase.
- Technology: Risk behaviors that kids experience on their own have increased (anxiety, stress, depression, suicide). Risk behaviors that kids experience with others have decreased (partying, substance abuse, pre marital sex). They have a heightened sense of what others are doing without them as events (on their devices) unfold in real time. They know they are missing out.
- Parenting: Many parents might be putting too much pressure on their children. Some may be rescuing their kids so their kids don’t have a chance to experience hardships and learn how to navigate difficult situations. Kids aren’t getting the chance to develop grit and character that develops from working through hard situations.
- Busyness: It’s recommended that teens have 25% of their time unstructured.
- Brain Biology: Sometimes it’s beyond an individuals’ control of when they experience a mental health challenge.
Kara asked the participants, “Why is it sometimes hard to talk about anxiety, depression, and suicide?” Answers included: it hits too close to home, shame, overreacting/dramatic, fear we’re going to make it worse, stigma associated with it, the discussion itself causes us anxiety, too vulnerable, poor theology (if we pray harder or memorize more Scripture, then those problems will go away).
Open Q & A Time:
Q: Where do we see an increase of mental health concerns during Covid?
A: There is some evidence that there’s social support (on their devices) being offered for young people during this time. It could be used for good, but there’s still risks. Parents need to be equipped with how to check their student’s accounts and devices. The uncertainty of the future (during the pandemic) can be very stressful for young people (and older people) during this time.
Q: What is the role of the family breakdown structure and the minimized role of the church in society?
A: Kids need caring adults to thrive. Home, in many situations, is not where those caring adults are. They need to have a web of relationships to connect with.
Q: What is the role of pastors in the mental health arena? And how do they add value and not make things more difficult?
A: One of the most important steps is to have referrals at your fingertips to refer people to. Hopefully you have vetted these therapists, so they are great recommendations for your congregants. Have available resources of therapists that work on a sliding scale and/or takes most insurance, as finances may come into play for families.
Q: As parents and leaders we can’t give the hard answers and challenges because too often our children take the easy way out via the internet and as we want to help our kids out , as young people they haven’t grown enough to choose the hard route to get to a healthy place; and as parents, we are not the only option for answers.
A: Understand the developmental stage that your kids are in and the obstacles they might come across and accept the things they can handle. Monitor what your kids are capable of and keep stepping back. Transition your role from being teachers of teenagers to being guides, where they make their own choices. Sometimes kids don’t hear the truth well from their parents and hear it fresh and new from someone who isn’t their parent.
Q: Is politicization a factor?
A: Tension conflict can be anxiety producing. In the recent racial tension, many racial protests have been led by young people. Purposeful outlets (service opportunities, purposeful work) can be meaningful and can help protect them from feelings of stress, isolation, and anxiety. Handing the keys over to young people to lead has been beneficial.
The second half of the conversation was not recorded. Please refer to Kara’s PowerPoint presentation for information on the second half of the conversation.
Links provided on the live chat: