A number of people blame the surge of mental health problems and youth mental health issues on mobile phones, social media, bullying, the pandemic, and all kinds of external issues.
But honestly, it’s all of these plus one another big one that is the result of the digital explosion.
Youth don’t feel they are being heard
The digital era made everyone aware that we were a society of billions. That made a lot of people feel like a grain of sand on a very big beach. Not feeling heard has made our young people (and many adults, too) feel more insignificant and has been a contributing factor to mental health issues, substance misuse and addiction, self-harm as well as suicide attempts and deaths by suicide.
The “I don’t feel heard” theme is one I’ve noticed in youth messages which are highlighted below. Here are some examples, then we’ll touch on some solutions.
The one trend that is most prevalent is lack of time
I’ll use one of my son’s last tweets as an example as painful as it is to see it.
Everyone is so busy, and as a result, there is less time to connect and really listen. But those are the times we remember the most. I treasure all the times my son Charles who died by suicide sat in my office and chatted after school. I’m so glad I had those moments and I savor them now. I only wish I had done a better job of it closer to the end of his life.
When have you ever had a bad day and started to talk about it and were overjoyed when someone dove in with all kinds of solutions? Did you feel heard, or bulldozed?
Listening doesn’t mean we fix their problem after we’ve heard what they have to say. We don’t fix it so they can. Your part as a caregiver is to allow them to feel heard and supported.
Empathize, then comment and ask questions so they find their own answers. “I understand you put so much into your relationship with April and I see how painful it is. I know I can’t fix the hurt but I can listen. What are some healthy coping strategies that have helped?”
When someone listens to what you have to say, something inside you shifts. You feel cared for. You feel better. That’s the gift our kids need, too. Especially now. It’s not complicated. It’s not fancy. But it’s an amazing declaration of love.