A few summers ago, a parent scheduled a meeting with me to deliver a message. When we sat down, he opened directly and succinctly: “Montreat failed my child.” I won’t share details, but in a moment like that, you don’t argue the point. You accept it, empathize with it, and apologize as you are able. I hope I did all three, but I mostly remember feeling as if I had been struck across the face.
Ultimately, I believe that feeling led me into closer attention to a question that now attracts national notice: What’s happening with American teenagers? It’s a question so frequently discussed and debated that you probably know what I have learned. A mental health crisis is upon us.
American teens in recent years have reported rising rates of unhappiness. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which measures teen behavior and mental health, reports that the share of teens who say they experienced “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” has risen each year for the past decade. Not surprisingly, alarming mental health indicators – anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide – are also rising significantly. (Those wishing to dig into the report can find it here. The podcast-inclined may prefer to listen to this discussion of the report here.)
While these trends are particularly serious among some segments of the teen population, they are widespread and have been rising since well before the onset of the pandemic. Something deeper is shifting, and shifting among the youth who come to Montreat, too.
This summer, the conference center has scheduled two evening programs to which all are invited, especially parents of teens and children of all ages:
- On Thursday evening, July 13th at 7:00 pm, Michelle Thomas-Bush, associate pastor for youth and their families at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte will present “Navigating Mental Health with Adolescents.” Michelle plans to go beyond the “Why?” and identify some tools and resources to help guide adolescents through turbulent waters. With decades of experience of working with youth in the church, Michelle will also address how we can be intentional about nurturing faith in an anxious world.
- On Wednesday evening, July 26th at 7:00 pm, Dr. Mollie Harrington, a pediatrics specialist in Western North Carolina, will follow with the topic “Youth and their Mental Health: What Can We Do?” Dr. Harrington will present a discussion of the current mental state of youth, consider the possible factors contributing to these trends, and what changes we might make to support our children and youth.
Both presentations will take place in the Thompson Brown Room at Moore Center (bottom floor). While the two presenters are both well qualified, they bring different professional perspectives. Feel free to attend either or both. We hope to see you there.
President, Montreat Conference Center