During my teenage years, I felt a void in discussions between my Christian faith and being diagnosed with both depression and anxiety. It was as if emotional health and God didn't mix; no one seemed to want to talk about both in the same conversation.
As I got older, I knew that there must be others out there having similar thoughts like me. Surely I couldn't be the only teenage Christian living in the void. Over the years, I would ask myself questions such as;
How can I be a Christian and be diagnosed with depression?
If the Bible tells me not to worry, then why am I so anxious all the time?
Does God still love me, even though I self-harm?
It wasn't until I became more knowledgeable in the area of mental and emotional health that I realised Christian's aren't exempt from experiencing poor mental health. Being a Christian is a lived experience, and that includes living with illnesses of all kinds.
Let's pause for a moment and see the reality that we're currently facing:
Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression and it is the leading cause of disability worldwide. (WHO, 2015)
In the UK, anxiety disorders are estimated to affect 5-19% of all children and adolescents. (NHS, 2014)
The majority of people who are reported to self-harm are aged between 11 and 25. (Mental Health Foundation, 2017)
These are just three of the many mental and emotional health challenges young people face in our society today.
The great news is that research shows young people want to talk about these challenges with trusted adults; they no longer want them to be 'taboo' topics. Whether it's because they're facing these adversities themselves or because friends/family are struggling, young people want to talk and therefore we must listen.
So, as youth leaders, how do we even begin to effectively support the young people we work with in exploring their emotional health and Christian faith? Where does the conversation begin in this vast field?
Exploring Emotional Health: Six workshop outlines for youth leaders will enable you to begin these much-needed conversations. This practical resource breaks open the void in exploring these challenges with young people. The book covers six key topics and includes ready to go workshops on self-esteem, anxiety, depression, self-harm, identifying and coping with emotions.
Every chapter provides an essential understanding of each topic so you are equipped to run the creative workshops. They could be used as a series during term-time or simply as a one-off at a residential.
Ten years on since my experience, there are still young people today asking the same questions. By using Exploring Emotional Health you'll be helping to close the void in openly discussing emotional health and Christian faith. Start the conversation now!
Mental Health Foundation (2017), Self-harm [online]. Available at: <https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/self-harm> [Accessed 7 February 2017]