It was during the third lockdown at the age of 14 that Amy reached her lowest point. She began suffering from panic attacks and bouts of feeling desperately low. Spending most of her time in her bedroom, she felt unable to talk to her family but didn’t know where else to turn. Secretly she started to self-harm. Then one evening at her church online youth group, one of the leaders mentioned a new online project offering free mental health support. She thought: “This is exactly what I need!” Since that moment, Amy has used the Headstrong site as a regular source of advice and help and joined a weekly online support group with other teenagers. Step-by-step she’s started to recover.
In the early months of the pandemic, Youthscape launched Headstrong as a practical response to the overwhelming mental health issues facing teenagers. It’s tough navigating adolescence at the best of times, but the last two years have added extra stresses. Now, more than ever, churches can play a role in supporting young people. Headstrong offers resources to youth workers as well as direct online advice and live groups for young people.
It can be intimidating for churches to address mental health, especially with young people. You want to help but where do you start – and what kind of experience and skills do you need? In fact, many churches have the crucial elements already: a strong sense of community, a willingness to listen, and volunteers prepared to give their time. That’s a more potent starting place than you may realise. There are programmes and resources available – from Headstrong and others – that can turn these crucial elements into a project serving a local school, running wellbeing programmes or simply creating a safe space for young people to start to thrive again after months in lockdown.
Of course, the other challenge is finding the funds needed to get those kind of projects off the ground. The new Brighter Lives
mental health programme feels like a timely and important answer to that problem. Here at Youthscape, we’ve seen hundreds of young people find the help they need in the last few years – I hope this mental health grants programme might give churches the confidence to respond to the needs of young people. Amy’s story is sadly not unique, but perhaps you can create a project that reaches young people like her in your community.
Helpful resources from Youthscape