This section will feature information about current events and challenges in adolescent mental health and development, as well as tips for handling issues, resources, and more, from our wellness and inclusion team.
Teens experience a variety of physical, mental, social, and emotional changes as they move through adolescence. These changes look different in all teens and some of the changes can also mimic the symptoms of mental illness – mood changes, decreased/increased appetite, sleeplessness or excessive tiredness, irritability. It’s important to understand that if a change in a teen is impacting their ability to function in BBYO or their everyday life, if they are withdrawing from family and friends, or if they are no longer wanting to engage in activities they once enjoyed, or there is a drastic change in their behavior they may be experiencing a mental health challenge, rather than a typical adolescent change.
Teens have protective factors that affect their resiliency to assist in their navigation through these changes and challenges that adolescence presents. Protective factors may include a sense of spirituality, good self-esteem, good support system, and a sense of community. The most important protective factor is a positive relationship with one safe adult. As an advisor, you play a critical role in BBYO teen development. Your role-modeling, mentorship, healthy boundaries, and support can not only help who these teens become, but also can impact their long-term health and wellbeing. You have the incredible ability to build a teen’s lifelong resiliency.
In order to best support your teens, be sure you are setting up a safe space for them to express themselves. It is alright to let them know if you have noticed a change, or if you are concerned about them. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when talking with them:
Listen, let the teen talk.
Let the teen guide the conversation.
Ask open-ended questions.
It is not your role to solve teen mental health problems. It is critical that you work with the teen to connect them to appropriate resources, and connect with the BBYO staff to inform them of any concerns you may have about a teen. If you suspect abuse or neglect, you MUST make a report to the appropriate authorities. BBYO staff are here to support you, and if you suspect abuse you must report up to BBYO staff and work with them to make a report out to the authorities.
Don’t forget - you have the power to change teen’s lives. Thank you for all that you do!
Drew Fidler, LCSW-C
Director, Center for Adolescent Wellness
Ari Handel, LSW, MSW
Director of Inclusion