3 Ways to Combat the Teen Mental Health Crisis

Amanda Idleman

Contributing Writer
Updated May 29, 2024
3 Ways to Combat the Teen Mental Health Crisis

Teens’ mental health is in crisis. We can see how the aftermath of walking through a global pandemic, coupled with the effects of a more digital world, have led to an explosion of mental health-related struggles for those under 18.

Teens’ mental health is in crisis. There is no doubt about it; we can see how the aftermath of walking through a global pandemic, coupled with the effects of a more digital world, have led to an explosion of mental health-related struggles for those under 18.

Recent data from the CDC reported that around 1 in 3 high school girls in the U.S. have seriously considered attempting suicide, and more than half of teen girls have reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless. These are record-high numbers!

Teen boys are faring better, with 14% of high school boys reporting in 2021 that they had seriously considered suicide, but this is still a jump from 13% that reported this in 2011. Those who are struggling with their sexual or gender identity report up to 70% experiencing persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. 

The number of children and teens suffering mental distress is rising! I know as a parent, I am very concerned that my children and their peers are feeling more stress, anxiety, and hopelessness than ever before. It’s important that we all take note of these trends and start to reach out to the upcoming generation and find ways for them to find hope and purpose in this uncertain world.

Here are a few ways we can promote mental health in our growing children:

1. Help Them Find Connection

A survey of over 7,000 teens confirmed what the Bible already tells us, those that had a strong sense of connection reported better mental health. We were made to live in community, from the beginning, God saw Adam and said it was not good for him to be alone. Teens are awkward at times as they grow into young adults. As they become more independent from their parents, they need strong connections outside their homes to attach to. As they struggle to find their identity, they still need support and connection from their parents and others.

High schools around the country are not equipped to deal with the lack of connection that seems to be persistent in the student population at this time. The divisiveness and lack of personal interaction that smartphones and social media create, especially in the younger generation, along with the extra pressures that we are all feeling as we live in this digital age, are converging to create a lot of loneliness in teens who truly need strong places to connect with in this season of life.

If your teen is already withdrawn to their own little world, it can feel challenging to reach them and create genuine connections that will give them life outside of the home, but it’s not hopeless! Check in with their teachers, coaches, and friends, and monitor their online activities. Reach out to trusted counselors, pastors, and mentors if you feel your child may be facing mental health challenges. Keep reaching out and doing all you can to draw them out. In time they will appreciate your efforts. They need you!

For those of us with younger kids, it’s time to see the writing on the wall. Our kids are growing up in a different world than we do, and we have to build the community now that will follow them into their crazy teen years. Sow into friendships that you know are life-giving for your kids. Find trusted adults in your community to take your kids under their wing so when they need a safe person to turn to that is not you, they have a place to go.

Get them connected through activities that engage them, if it’s a sport, acting, music, dance, Lego club, or whatever! They need coaches and leaders in their life that will help them find their way when they begin to struggle with their identity. Have a small group, kid's church, or youth group that you know they can build a community inside of. Be the house that all the neighborhood kids come over to! Don’t let crazy schedules stop you from making real friendships a priority for your family.

2. Get Them Outside

We all spend too much time inside! Our teens are no exception; they rush to school in the morning, then speed off to activities, come home to homework, and repeat. We are missing all the mood-boosting benefits that nature has to offer. A recent survey reported that teens felt better after spending time outdoors. Something as simple as taking a walk or just sitting outside to do that math homework can brighten up your day. Science tells us that going outside for just 15 minutes a day can reduce cortisol levels, strengthen your immunity, improve your focus, calm your mind, improve your memory and vision, and even help with weight management! That’s the easiest health improvement plan ever! But it’s tougher than it sounds to spend 15 consecutive minutes outside every day.

Make a point to wake up with your teens and take a quick walk around the block before they head out the door or grab a walk as soon as they get home. Choose extracurricular activities that allow your teen to be outside, such as soccer, baseball, scouts, or other outdoor sports. Plan to spend part of your weekends out in nature together. Plan a family hike, camping trip, bike ride, or my favorite beach trip! Sign up for a run or learn how to place pickleball together. Stay outside and active as a family so your kids can reap the rewards God’s creation has for our bodies.

3. Pray Without Ceasing

The truth is that our bodies are affected by the unseen. Mental health is not all in our heads; it's a body problem. When we lack serotonin, we begin to feel down and depressed. This can be due to hormones, nutritional needs, stress, and more! I, for one, do not want to over-spiritualize something that often requires medical intervention in order for us to be able to find the proper balance in our bodies.

Yet, I do see that there is a spiritual way underway in our world. Community, connection, and family values have become hard to find and are no longer prioritized in our culture. The enemy is on the prowl, fighting for the souls of our children. Confusion about identity is rampant, and voices that shout that we find ourselves in things outside of God are being amplified in incredible ways. We can’t shield our kids from every evil voice, and we can’t force them to follow the narrow way, but we can pray without ceasing that they will find their true identity in Christ. That his truth will be written on their hearts, and his love will relentlessly follow them for all of their days.

As I see the teen years fast approaching, it can be easy to begin to start to feel fearful of what the next years will hold, but I want to live hopeful that God has joy to be shared in this next season. That even when the world is struggling, by his grace, my kids can thrive. I pray they live as lights in this world even as they walk through their own seasons of questioning. I know God has a hope and a future for the generations to come, and I trust that he will write a good story with the lives of each of my kids.

Related Resource: The 2 Greatest Mental Health Needs of Every Child

Parents are justifiably concerned about the mental health of their children, and often they don’t know where to start when a child is struggling mentally. In this episode of Christian Parent/Crazy World, host Catherine Segars talks with a mental health expert who specializes in helping parents reconnect the critical bond with their child to address the foundation of their mental health. A child must know that their parents have their back, and they must know that they are loved no matter what. If this critical foundation breaks down, a child will become disconnected from their parents and others. They will suffer in all of their relationships and in their mental health. Listen in to learn more! If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to Christian Parent/Crazy World on Apple or Spotify so you never miss an episode!

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/dragana991 

Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. She has most recently published a devotional, Comfort: A 30 Day Devotional Exploring God's Heart of Love for Mommas. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.