As a mom of 4 and a career working with adolescents for the last 15 years, I find myself worrying about these topics often, but now more so than ever. I’ve spent a lot of time studying youth risk behavior data over the years and while there are definitely concerns about alcohol, vaping, sexual activity, and other risk behaviors, I’ve watched the mental health data become more and more alarming with each survey implementation. And this was BEFORE the pandemic. Now we are faced with the fear of the unknown, the isolation, the loss of sports, school, clubs, and so many of the positive things we so desperately need at any age.

Some days I am concerned about the kids I work with. Some days I am concerned about my mental health. Some days I am worried about our own kids (3 of whom are teenagers). I’ve been doing some research, talking to mental health professionals, attending trainings, and compiling tips and resources to help find ways to maintain some balance. There is some great information out there but for now I will keep it simple and hit the highlights. These tips apply to all ages:

Tips/What to do to help manage anxiety/stress/depression:
• Limit your exposure to the news
• Take care of your body- sleep, eating, exercise, limiting caffeine
• Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling
• Make a meaningful connection with someone every day-either by video or safely distanced 
• Do something purposeful every day, give yourself something to accomplish-no matter how small-every day

Things to watch for in others that may be struggling:
• Prolonged changes in mood and/or behavior (feeling that you can’t shake sadness or worry)
• Anger/Irritability
• Loss of interest in people and things/activities
• Thoughts of helplessness and/or hopelessness
 
How to help others: 
• Be there to listen without judgement
• Be patient and keep trying, it can be hard to talk about feelings sometimes
• Avoid ultimatums, they don’t work
 
When to seek help:

When you no longer can do what you need to do, or want to do it’s time to seek help
 

Whether you are a parent or a teen, here are some resources (local and national):

Crisis Text Line:  741741
Crisis One of Roanoke Valley: 315-6659
Carilion Adolescent Health Services:  985-9075
Hopeline:  1-800-235-4525
TrevorLifeline (GLBTQ+ youth): 1-866-488-7386
TrevorText: 678-678
The Trevor Project: www.thetrevorproject.com

There are also plenty of free apps that can help you manage emotions on a daily basis!

The one message I have taken away from the last 6 months is that it is okay not to be okay. It is okay not to be at your best right now. It’s okay to ask for help and get help when you need it. We are all doing the best we can and some days we will be better than others. Be patient with yourself and give yourself grace. We will all eventually get through this and we will do it together.