Suicidal teen
Have you educated yourself enough to be able to counsel your students on deep-rooted personal issues? (iStock photo)

As I continue to love on students and family through pastoral care, there are some things that I've had to become knowledgeable about. Because students and their families are dealing with these issues and in order for me to really care for them, I need to educate myself.

So, I thought I'd share few of the issues with you. I am by no means an expert in any of the issues I list. My goal has been to know enough to understand what it is I'm dealing with so that I can respond better.

1. Mental Illness. There is such a huge stigma when it comes to mental illness, because we automatically associate mental illness with a lack of smarts. Therefore, people are afraid or ashamed to talk about it. Well, I had to educate myself on the topic, so I could view and pray for my students struggling with mental illness in the right light.

Sometimes I think we can tack on things and misdiagnose students based on what we think we know about the student and what's really going on. I always push parents to seeing a professional, but that doesn't negate my responsibility to walk with the student and family through the process. The crazy part is that out of all the kids that are struggling, only 20 percent are being diagnosed and treated. It makes me want to know more, because I most likely have students and families who are dealing with it on their own.

2. Self Harm. The Huffington Post came out with an article not to long ago that said self harm was becoming mainstream thanks to the Internet. I've definitely had more conversations concerning this topic then I would like to in my own ministry. I had to become knowledgeable about it so that I could minister and care for our students who are struggling in this area. Because even though I send them to see a professional, they still need support as they go through this journey of healing. Again, I need to know what I'm dealing with because I want to be able to care and pray for my students very specifically. I created this for my leaders.

3. Suicide. It's the second leading cause of death for ages (10-24), and the third-leading cause of death for college-age and youth (12-18). There are 5,400 attempts a day by students in grades 7-12. What's interesting is that 4 out 5 teens who attempt suicide give warning signs. Which makes me want to know what to look for, and have some guidelines on how to respond.

4. Abuse. In youth group, a lot of things come out concerning students. I want my leaders to know what to do in case abuse is found out. Even more than that, I want them to know the signs to look for in students who they think may be being abused. There are mandated reports so it's crucial they understand they are bound by law to report abuse.

I think sometimes we shy away from these types of issues, because it's like opening Pandora's box. But in Matthew 9:12, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." Studying Jesus' ministry here on earth leads me to believe that He was all about blowing the door off of Pandora's box. He spent more time with those who struggled than any other people group during his time on earth.

I had to open my eyes to the fact that the majority of my students are probably struggling with something. And I can't be so occupied with doing ministry that I neglect those who are in need of being ministered to. I have to care about these students just as much as God does. They need community and people praying for them just like everyone else and maybe even more. Just a thought!

What are some other things we need to educate ourselves on so we can minister to our students and their families better?

Aaron Crumbey oversees pastoral care for the high school ministry at Saddleback Church. He cares deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach their full potential in Christ.

For the original article, visit blog.simplyyouthministry.com.

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