Helping Teens Find Their Inner Voice

While we struggle to feel a sense of connectedness in this fast-paced world of downloads, streaming services, and twenty-four-hour news cycles, it is important to remember that teens are also trying to find themselves amidst the chaos. Some of us may still look fondly on the days of teenage angst and feel relieved that it is all in the past. But teens today must survive within the web of social media and a never-ending culture of consumption. Perhaps that is why in 2021, a Center for Disease Control (CDC) data summary on teens revealed that 42% of teens felt persistently sad or hopeless, and 22% seriously considered suicide. If you know or live with a teenager who is struggling to navigate their world, you know those numbers do not lie. Have teens changed that much? Or, has the world around them and the pressures that come with it changed? Navigating the burdens of dating, substance use, exposure to violence, bullying, academic pressures, and economic hardships is a part of the adolescent experience. Maintaining the balance between security and instability is a burden that teens carry, which we often misunderstand and often fail to see. Ironically, the states of isolation and insecurity teens often feel stem from their lack of connectedness in their interpersonal worlds. While social media environments keep teens constantly “connected,” the reality is that most teens crave real human interactions and emotional (not virtual) connections.

Mental health treatment is a place where we can learn about ourselves via the power of human relationships and emotional understanding. To help navigate these challenges, teens must be invited to safe places where they can be heard, validated, and guided through this confusing time in their lives. In the past few decades, we have become increasingly aware of how crucial human connection can be to the solace of teenage insecurity. Following many tragedies that involve teenagers, we often ask ourselves, “How did we not see this coming?” or “Didn’t anyone notice the pain that child was in?” The support that teens need is vast, and the fixes for the complexity of their lives are not simple. But there are places where they can learn to find a voice. A voice which the poet Mary Oliver called the “voice which you slowly recognized as your own.”

Finding help is the biggest, most important step. The Community Mental Health Hub at Hanna provides a range of services to help individuals and families address and recover from trauma. For more information, please call 707-933 4HUB or email [email protected].

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