Supporting youth mental health

Supporting youth mental health

Saturday, 30 October 2021

1. Listen

When communicating with a young person, it’s important to listen. This sounds obvious, but it can be difficult not to jump in and offer your point of view.

Listening more than you talk is a good starting point. Being a good listener takes skill and a lot of effort. It doesn’t necessarily come naturally.

2. Give

Give young people time. It’s critical to really give young people time and attention if you want them to experience you as a good listener. We have all, at one time or other, tried to say something important to someone who was not really listening.

They may give this away by fidgeting, looking at something over our shoulder, checking their watch, or interrupting us. Can you recall how this made you feel?

It likely wasn’t a particularly pleasant feeling. You probably didn’t really feel listened to, understood or even important at that moment. If you’re not in a position to listen attentively to a young person, tell them and try choosing a better time for it.

3. Don’t judge

One of the reasons young people might not open up is due to fear of being judged. Convey to the young person in your life you’re not here to judge them, but simply to listen.

Assure them no matter what they say, you will still care and be there for them. You are not going to think any less of them, regardless.

Separating a person’s behaviour from the person themselves can help manage our tendency towards judgement. Another trap we can fall into is jumping to conclusions. Once we do this, we stop listening, rather than truly hearing what the young person is saying.

4. Normalise

Young people can often feel embarrassed or ashamed about their struggles. They often feel very alone, as if they are the only one experiencing these challenges. By normalising a young person’s feelings, you can reassure them.

Make sure you really listen to what is going on for that young person, and ask how they feel about it. Let them know that they are not alone.

Young woman wearing a mask looking at her mobile phone

Different levels of mental health

Remember we all will experience different levels of mental health throughout our lifetime. It’s important to seek help and support sooner rather than later.

5. Seek support

You may need to seek support from a healthcare professional when a young person in your life is struggling with their mental health for a period of time.

Remember we all will experience different levels of mental health throughout our lifetime. It’s important to seek help and support sooner rather than later.

6. Encourage involvement

Encourage your young person to get involved in clubs, sports, groups, and activities of interest to them. Being part of a community, contributing, and being involved with others, encourages good mental health and self-confidence in young people.

Allow them to explore and find activities and interests meaningful to them personally.

7. Encourage exercise and play

Our mental and physical health are closely linked. It is important for young people to get regular exercise and stay active.

Young people may find they enjoy playing a certain sport, walking, running, swimming, or other forms of play and exercise.

8. Don’t avoid difficult conversations

It can be tempting to avoid difficult conversations, to say nothing and to hope it will all blow over. It is important we don’t avoid or ignore the signs if we think a young person may be struggling.

If you notice a change in a young person’s behaviour, ask them about it in a calm and supportive way.

Read more about starting that conversation here. Some parents find young people are more likely to open up when they are doing an activity together.

9. Don’t panic

Stay calm and curious when a young person opens up to you. A young person may reveal they are experiencing bullying, experimenting with a new activity/behaviour or even disclose self-harm.

Help the young person feel safe and supported, while also accessing the correct supports for them.

Remain calm, open to hearing more, and stable. This will help to keep the conversation open. It will give you a chance to find out more about what is happening for the young person.

10. Seek your own supports

We’re better able to provide quality care and support for young people in our lives when we feel supported ourselves. Finding ways to mind your own mental health will help you to mind the mental health of a young person.

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