Thanks to Sara from Nanny Pro for her guest post on volunteering with teens who have mental illness. Take it away, Sara!
Volunteering and Teens with Mental Illness
When you consider volunteering, most people think of the local soup kitchen or the animal shelter. These are the more common ways to give back in your community—feeding the hungry or assisting helpless animals. But those seeking more of a challenge should try volunteering with teens, particularly teens with mental illness. Mental illness is a growing problem for today’s teens and there are many different organizations around the world to help them through this time.
Everyone knows that teens can be a tough group. Babies and children are innocent, fun, and sweet…the elderly are wise, calm, and full of wonderful stories…but teens needing the most help are the ones that don’t want it or don’t think they need it. You remember your teenage years–you and your friends were wanna-be rebels who thought you knew everything.
There are several organizations across the United States that help teens, but few help youth with emotional and mental problems. Mental illness has always carried a negative social stigma, partly because it’s not a physical problem that you can see.
Teens with mental illness are those that pose possible harm to themselves or to others. Teens with mental illnesses like bipolar or major depressive disorders may exhibit frightening behaviors like suicidal and homicidal threats or attempts, self-harm, stealing, and drug use.
You can help these teens by volunteering your time at special centers dedicated to aiding them in their journeys. Teens need a positive adult to look up to, so join them for an activity like:
• Baking and cooking
• Arts and crafts
• Career fairs
• Talking and advising
• Writing exercises
• Physical activity like tossing a ball
Working with troubled teens isn’t for everyone. It’s only for those looking to make a difference in a teen’s life by acting in a mature, friendly, and positive manner. Subject matters may come up that can be very uncomfortable and one needs to be able to figure out how to respond and handle these kind of conversations.
For more information on where and how you can help out teens with issues, check with your local teen programs and/or visit the National Alliance of Mental Illness.
Sara is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor to Nanny Pro.
Thank you, Sara! As a psychologist, I agree that teen mental illness is on the rise. Students arrive to college with more psychopathology and prescription psychotropic medication than ever before. While volunteering with this age group might be a challenge, it can also be so fun! So get your inner snark on and join in this vibrant, clever group.