An unprecedented number of young people in the world are struggling with mental health. According to the World Health Organization, one in seven 10-19-year-olds experiences a mental disorder.
Several anonymous questions submitted by youth in the Africa South area to Elder Ronald A. Rasband dealt with the same theme. Youth spoke about anxiety, hopelessness and struggling to feel a sense of joy.
Recently, Sister Naume Dube, who is married to Elder Edward Dube, the Area President in southern Africa, addressed the issue with youth and young adults in Zimbabwe.
“Travelling the world, I have learned that anxiety and depression amongst youth like you, the numbers are very high,” she said.
Often, youth may not know what they are going through. “And so we suffer inside. We say, this is me; I have to deal with it,” said Sister Dube.
But it is very important to reach out to someone you trust when you are struggling mentally or emotionally. “Don’t live in a box,” said Sister Dube. “You will not get through it by yourself.”
A church manual titled ‘Mental Health’ explains: “Everyone has days when they feel sad, stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed by life’s challenges. [But] if you continue to struggle for several weeks or longer or your symptoms begin interfering with your daily life—at home, work, school, or in your relationships—seek help.
“Talk to someone you trust, such as a family member, friend, Relief Society president, bishop, or mental health professional. Addressing mental health concerns early and often is the most effective approach and can help prevent a crisis in the future.
In addition to social support, we may need counselling or medication, said Sister Dube. These sometimes necessary steps are part of our support and our road to healing.
But sometimes it is difficult to tell whether we are just going through a hard time or whether we are struggling with mental health.
The same manual reads, “A mental health professional can help you tell the difference between a mental illness and a normal reaction to the everyday stresses of life. A diagnosis connected to mental health should not be viewed as any less real than another medical diagnosis.
Think about the following as you consider talking with a mental health professional:
How long have you experienced these challenges?
Are you aware of others in your family who have experienced similar challenges?
Are these problems causing significant distress in your life?
Are your own attempts to make yourself feel better not helping?
Has anyone who you trust mentioned something about your mood or behavior?
Another factor to consider is how much these symptoms affect your daily life. For example, Sister Dube offers:
“When you no longer find interest or joy in activities; when you feel like you are worthless or that you cannot achieve anything; if you are unable to focus on school work, and when everything seems negative; you see everyone as your enemy; or you feel abandoned by the Saviour … then you should take these feelings very seriously.”
It can be difficult to reach out for help, but this step can help you immensely.
Church literature encourages, “pray for courage to talk to someone you trust, such as a family member, friend, Church leader, or mental health professional. Remember that some people will be more open and understanding than others because of their knowledge, sensitivity, and life experiences.
“Ask for a time to speak together—you are more likely to have a helpful discussion if the person you are speaking with is prepared and ready to focus on what you are saying. You can say (or text) something as simple as, “Hey, I’m having a hard time and really need someone to listen.”
Read through the questions below and think about how you would respond. These ideas can help you start a conversation.
What are you experiencing physically? Talk about your symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, frequent headaches, mind racing, nausea, restlessness, slower movements or reactions, substance abuse, unexplained muscle pain, or changes in appetite, weight, or sleep patterns.
What are you feeling emotionally? Be descriptive—there is a lot going on when you are feeling overwhelmed and struggling with mental illness. Be sure to express feelings such as hopelessness, self-loathing, irritability, isolation, anxiety, sadness, fear, or guilt. Talk about how often you experience these emotions.
What do you struggle with socially? Consider how you interact with your family members, friends, coworkers, and others. Talk about any behavioral changes you’ve noticed, such as frequent or unexplained sadness, withdrawal from others, lack of personal hygiene, disinterest in activities you used to enjoy, or less energy and motivation.
What makes thinking difficult? Daily life can be especially challenging when your cognitive function is altered or impaired. Discuss any symptoms you may have, such as thoughts of self-harm, indecisiveness, confusion, difficulty remembering things, or thoughts of death and suicide. Talk about how often you have these thoughts and what you wish was different.”
Lastly, remember that no matter what you’re feeling or experiencing, you are always and unconditionally loved.
“There is one – the Saviour – who loves us so much,” said Sister Dube. “No matter what we are, no matter who we are, no matter what we have done.”
For more information and help about mental health, please go to the Church’s Life Help pages.