Don't Let Them Slip Through The Cracks
This blog is written by Gareth Unruh who is one of our DYWC Field Team Members. He is also the Chief Ministry Officer for Denver Youth For Christ.
I’ve always had a heart for the students that felt like they didn’t fit or they felt like they weren’t a part of the mainstream crowd. Even as a kid myself I would gravitate towards those in the lunch room that sat alone or tended to distance themselves. As I’ve been checking in with my youth workers these past few weeks amidst the new reality of Corona Virus, my usual questions have added, “Who are we not hearing from?” When you host your IGTV clubs or groups, who isn’t signing on our watch? When you do Zoom small groups, who haven’t you heard from? As you sending your texts through the REMIND app or are you texting them individually? Do you wonder if they are getting them? It is so easy for our young people who slip through the cracks to stay off our radar, especially during times like this. And when they fall through the cracks, it's possible to see increased risk or higher possibility of harm. We are aware of potential increase of mental health crisis. Our student's suicidal ideation is increased because of their anxiety and depression. Things at home are more tense than ever with demands of online learning and parents that are trying to work from home and helping with school from home. Here are some ways to check in individually with your students and potentially catch those that would normally get lost in the crowd. 1. Go through your entire roster, divvy your numbers for your youth leaders to contact and give them a short script to work from, whether text or phone call. Ask the student to share what they may be mourning, because of what they have already lost or won’t happen this year due to shelter in place and social distancing. Have them share what they are grateful for, even if it is small. See if they will let you check in with their parents or guardian to get their take on how they are doing. 2. Have your youth leaders share who they got ahold of, if they haven’t been able to get ahold of someone and they have double checked the number and have tried multiple times at different parts of the day, consider another way to reach out. Potentially going and knocking on their door or leaving a note at their address. Our population of young people (many do not feel safe in their own home), we will call law enforcement to make a wellness check. 3. Ask God to bring to mind your individual youth that you know are quiet and keep to themselves or have struggled with mental health in the past or currently. Contact those youth and set up regular check in’s with them. 4. When talking with other youth ask them who they haven’t heard from or who they are talking to and ask them to consider reaching out to youth they haven’t heard from. Our young people can be our best assets when it comes to connecting.
Many times, our youth want to remain anonymous, especially when they are struggling. You being willing to share your own anxiety or your own struggles in an appropriate way could normalize their feelings and have them open up more to share.
Here are some additional resources for you to utilize when interfacing with student populations who are experiencing high risk behavior or mental health risk: Crisis Text Line (CTL) — Text SHARE to 741741 National Suicide Prevention — 1-800-273-TALK or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/ National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline — (800) 950-6264 During this time, my prayer is for those who are vulnerable, those who are at-risk of self-harm and suicide, those who don’t feel safe at home; that God would be present and that Jesus would be with the lonely and forgotten. Jesus is with us through the pain and trials, may you continue to lift up young people to experience Christ in new ways this season.