Mental Health: Learning how to support youth

At last week’s Open House, Adjunct Professor Kimberly Whyte spoke about mental health and today’s youth. If you missed it, we thought we would share some key takeaways from her presentation!

We ALL have mental health

In the same way that everyone has physical and spiritual health, everyone has mental health. It isn’t just a special topic for those who are struggling. We need to care for our mental health before we feel unhealthy. Normalizing conversations around mental health helps youth access resources before they feel it is too late.

Labels, rules and identity

What labels are we placing on youth? Depressed? Anxious? Lazy? What unspoken “rules” might they encounter? Perhaps they get the impression that as Christians we shouldn’t experience depression, or that God is upset by their emotions and experiences. We need to be careful not to create an identity from these labels and rules that youth then begin to walk in.

Encouraging conversation

We can help youth strengthen their emotional intelligence by encouraging conversation. During these conversations, we can help youth put words to emotions, understand why they are feeling something and teach them what to do with their emotions. Being open to ALL types of conversations gives space and freedom for youth to come to us, even when the conversation is challenging.

Understanding the adolescent brain

Adolescents process information differently than adults. They often misinterpret facial expressions like fear or shock to be anger. Understanding the differences between an adolescent brain and an adult brain can help us to care for the youth around us in a more compassionate way.

What is normal?

“Normal” varies from person to person. If a youth NEVER sleeps in and they have slept in for the last two weeks, that is not normal. If a youth ALWAYS sleeps in, and they have slept in for the last two weeks, that would be normal. We need to help youth better understand their own bodies and experiences, and then work off that.

Signs of stress, anxiety and depression:
  • Limited motivation
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Inability to focus
  • Crying
  • Trouble breathing
  • Little to no interest in social activity
  • Little to no appetite
  • Overeating
  • Persistent sadness
  • Physical ailments not responding to medical aid

Interested in learning more about mental health? Kimberly Whyte is leading a workshop entitled Finding Hope in the Midst of Depression & Anxiety at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, March 20th at Drayton Reformed Church. For details, contact Kimberly at