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YFC leader: ‘Youth leaders need to acknowledge areas in a youth’s life where they may have gone through an event that would be deemed as traumatic and listen with care and respect’

August 1, 2022

MIAMI66% of students admit to feeling anxious about the beginning of the school year, and mental health issues are on the rise in high schools across the country. Youth ages 12-17 have the highest reports of anxiety, depression, and behavioral disorders. In light of these troubling statistics, many Americans are questioning the best approaches to address the growing mental health crisis in today’s youth.

Youth For Christ (YFC, www.yfc.net) has stressed the importance of tackling youth mental health for 78 years, coming alongside youth during pivotal moments of their lives and building powerful relationships rooted in the Gospel. YFC offers a variety of methods to reach young people, such as its Campus Life, Juvenile Justice, and Parent Life ministries.

Angel Terrero, Miami YFC site director and a mental health counselor, mentors and disciples youth who have interacted with the juvenile justice system in the greater Miami area. Terrero uses his experience as a mental health counselor to both connect with teens as well as teach other leaders how to address the serious concerns plaguing today’s youth.

“It’s easy for us to think ‘I know what teenagers are going through because I was a teenager once,’ but it’s not the same,” Terrero stated. “We were all once teenagers, but we have no idea what it’s like to be a teenager in today’s society. We have no idea what it’s like to be a teenager growing up in a society that has dealt with a pandemic or essentially creates self-worth through an image on social media and the way that people react. It’s so important to hear what these youth are feeling in response to the traumatic incidents they’ve had to deal with.

“Trauma creates walls that make it difficult for teenagers to connect with others. We all experience trauma in some regard, but what is deemed traumatic for one person might not be the same for another. Youth leaders need to acknowledge areas in a youth’s life where they may have gone through an event that would be deemed as traumatic and listen with care and respect.”

Terrero continued, “When somebody goes through trauma, it’s almost like there is an overload of stress chemicals being poured into that person’s brain that has long-lasting effects. This is particularly concerning as a teenager’s brain is still developing. When they go through traumatic experiences, it hinders that brain development, leading teens to question their identity and place in the world.”

This is why YFC is dedicated to encouraging and supporting today’s youth as they wrestle with these difficult issues. By building meaningful relationships with youth, YFC leaders live out the love of Christ and show youth that they care about them — even through their mental health crises.

Terrero concluded, “I think we almost have to train ourselves to approach youth not with the thought of, ‘Tell me what’s wrong with you,’ but more with the thought of, ‘What happened to you that you are experiencing these issues and how can I build a relationship with you to understand what you are going through?’ Our goal should not be to tell youth what to do, but rather to walk alongside them as they are going through their own mental health journey.

“I just pray that today’s youth find their identity not in their mental health trauma, but rather in Christ.”

YFC chapters impact thousands of communities across the nation, seeking out and serving youth from all walks of life. Young people are silently struggling through a wide variety of challenging issues—and through the YFC ministry God empowers, they see the living power of a loving God. YFC trains its leaders in a proven, relational ministry model called 3Story®, which encourages staff and volunteers to be good news while also sharing the stories of the Good News of Jesus. It involves building relationships through the ups and downs of everyday life to lead people to Christ. 

YFC has been a pillar of missional ministry since 1944, when Dr. Billy Graham served as YFC’s first full-time staff member. Since then, Youth For Christ has continued to be both a rural and urban ministry on mission, and it is always about the message of Jesus. YFC reaches young people everywhere, working together with the local church and other like-minded partners to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus who lead by their godliness in lifestyle, devotion to the Word of God and prayer, passion for sharing the love of Christ, and commitment to social involvement. Youth For Christ operates in over 100 nations and has over 130 chapters that impact communities across America. 

Visit the Youth For Christ media page here. Learn more about Youth For Christ at its website, www.yfc.netFacebook and Instagram pages, Twitter feed @yfcusa or on Vimeo