the shape of leadership

Helping Young Adults Cope With Mental Health Issues

Majority of 18- to 24-year-olds report symptoms of anxiety or depression

Kent Ingle on May 23, 2022

Mental health is one of the most alarming topics swirling around higher education. For college presidents, it is at the forefront of our minds.

As we read stories of young adults struggling with mental health, including high-profile college athletes who recently made national headlines for taking their own lives, it makes us realize how close to home this issue really is.

It begs the question: Are we doing everything we can to support young adults and their mental health?

The pandemic magnified the issues young adults often deal with. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 63% of 18- to 24-year-olds reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. Two of the top contributors to mental health issues were loneliness and isolation.

More recently, the war in Ukraine has added to the stress and anxiety of many as they are exposed to suffering around the world through social media and the news.

Mental health is something we need to address in our church communities and on our Christian college campuses.

Here are five ways we can help young adults care for their mental health:


Provide a Support Network

As young adults struggle with mental health issues, it is important they have friends and family members to rely on. Research shows that strong support systems can have positive impacts and are critical for one’s mental health.

Those in the body of Christ should support and encourage one another as we go through difficult times. One thing many of us learned during the pandemic was to not take the necessity of community for granted.

In Philippians 2:1-4, Paul talks about the importance of being like Jesus. When practicing Christ’s humility, we consider others above ourselves and take care of one another. A support system looks out for the interests of others and not just oneself.

Mental health is something we need to address in our church communities and on our Christian college campuses.


Emphasize Seeking Christ First

All the negativity and uncertainty from the past few years can weigh down young adults. It may begin to adversely affect how they think and act toward one another. While young adults are dealing with various issues, we need to remind them to focus on Jesus and prioritize time in His presence.

John 14:27 reminds us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” And Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Young adults can find their hope and reassurance in Christ. It does not mean they cannot ask for support or get help from professionals. But they should always seek God first and pray for Him to renew their minds.


Be Approachable and Empathetic

Young adults want leaders and pastors they can talk to — judgment-free — about what they are going through. Sometimes they just need a person who will listen to them, sympathize with them, and encourage them.

Proverbs 3:27 says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” As leaders, we have the influence to support young adults as they encounter struggles.

It is important we connect with young adults and make them feel valued after our conversations. We also must make sure they know that any information shared is confidential.

Oftentimes, young adults may not know where to turn or what resources are available to them. Therefore, it is important we are prepared to handle these difficult conversations.


Encourage a Holistic Lifestyle

Regular exercise is proven to reduce anxiety and depression. Studies also show sleep and mental health are closely related. When talking to young adults, we must help them understand why their physical well-being is important to their mental health.

First Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We honor God through our bodies. For a renewed mind and spirit, it is important we take care of our bodies as well.

Pursuing hobbies and other interests is also essential for the physical and mental health of young adults. This is possible by getting outside and enjoying what God has created. When young adults are invested in something they love or are passionate about, it can lift their spirits while relieving stress and anxiety.


Share Mental Health Resources

One of the most important steps to take is letting young adults know what mental health resources and counselors are available to them. They should not walk through their struggles alone.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is important young people take care of themselves spiritually, mentally, and physically.

While God can provide miraculous healing in their situations, young adults need to know they can get professional support as well.

At Southeastern University, we have counseling services available 24 hours a day for students who may need professional help. In our church communities, it is important we have trustworthy counselors who can help young adults.

Proverbs 12:18 tells us, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” We must recognize that professional counselors can help offer healing in situations ministers may not be able to.

While focusing on mental health awareness this month, we must evaluate if everything possible is being done to support the young adults in our congregations who are struggling. It is something that cannot be ignored or put on the back burner. It must be a priority.

For young adults to live the way God intended, we need to encourage them in their spiritual journeys — and that includes supporting their mental health.
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