Here are ten ways of supporting youth mental health no matter what’s going on.
When communicating with a young person, it’s important to remember to listen. This sounds obvious but in fact it can be difficult to resist the urge to jump in and offer your point of view. Listening more than you talk is a good starting point. Being a good listener takes skill and a lot of effort, it doesn’t necessarily come naturally.
Give young people time. It’s critical to really give young people time and attention if you want them to experience you as a good listener. We have all had the experience, at one time or another, of trying to say something important to someone who was not really listening to us.
They may have given this away by fidgeting, looking at something over our shoulder, checking their watch, interrupting us. Can you recall how it made you feel? It likely wasn’t a particularly pleasant feeling, and you probably didn’t really feel listened to, understood or even important in that moment. If you’re not in a position to listen attentively to a young person it is better to tell them and try to find a better time.
3. Don’t judge
One of the reasons why young people might not open up is due to fear of being judged. Try to convey to the young person in your life that you’re not here to judge them but simply to listen. Assure them that no matter what they tell you that you will still care about them and be there for them, that you will not think any less of them.
Separating out a person’s behaviour from the person themselves can help us to manage our tendency towards judgement. Another trap we can fall into is jumping to conclusions. Once we start jumping to conclusions we have stopped listening, and rather than truly hearing what the young person is saying.
Young people can often feel embarrassed or ashamed about their struggles. They often feel very alone as if they are the only one experiencing these challenges. By normalising a young person’s feelings you can reassure them.
You can start by making sure you really listen to what is going on for that young person, and asking how they feel about it. Let them know that they are not alone.