“I feel like I’m standing in front of a machine that is hurling 100 tennis balls at me and there’s no way that I can hit them all,” I recently shared with a colleague. She, too, works with youth and replied, “I feel like I’m standing in front of a dam with too many holes for me to fill before it bursts.” Ask any adult about their stress level right now, and I suspect they would share something similar. This leads me to ask, if we, as adults, are feeling this way, how are our youth feeling? We know that the answer is, “not great.”
We are seeing youth across the board struggle with the difficulties of distance learning, quarantines, limited access to activities, and friends who are disengaging, all while having to wear masks and physically distance from those they are naturally drawn to be near. The uncertainty of future events, like senior proms, graduations, and social gatherings that are central to a teen’s life, creates additional stress.
Before the pandemic, Sagadahoc County had rates of teen depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation that were higher than the Maine state average. After almost a year of grappling with the pandemic, the risk seems even higher. Knowing the warning signs of suicide, and where to turn for help when they are recognized, is something that everyone can do to help mitigate this risk.
Whether you are a parent, aunt, uncle, teacher, coach, youth worker, volunteer community member or even “just” a neighbor, you can play a vital role in helping a young person connect to support. Inside, you’ll find valuable information and resources provided by NAMI Maine. Learn more by visiting namimaine.org.
While the future is still unknown, it is important for us all to remember that we are not alone in these struggles. We can support one another, and our youth, by keeping inventory of what is in our control and letting go of what is not. We can be mindful of our daily schedules and those of our children. Is everyone getting adequate sleep? Taking technology breaks? Building more movement into these cold winter days? Staying connected to supports?
If you’ve read this far, my assignment for you right at this very moment is to stop and consider one thing you are grateful for. Write it down. Then, ask a young person in your life to do the same. As for me, I am grateful for each one of you, as you continue to walk beside me, my team, and the children we love so dearly.