Sarah Griffith Lund
Chalice Press, 112 pages | Published April 26, 2022
“How are the children?”
This is the question UCC pastor and mental health advocate Sarah Griffith Lund continuously asks throughout her most recent book Blessed Youth: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness with Children and Teens.
As a youth pastor in Chicago, I know the answer to Lund’s question all too well: the kids are not okay. The U.S. has had a mental health crisis starting well before March 2020, and teens have never been immune; yet the pandemic has taken an extra toll on the mental health of young people. According to the 2021 Mental Health America Report: “from March to October 2020, children’s visits to the emergency room for mental health conditions increased 31% for those 12 to 17 years old and 24% for children ages 5 to 11 compared to the same period in 2019.” The current mental health crisis is so troubling that, at the end of 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General advised that we must address it immediately.
Lund knows the impact mental illness can have through her and her family’s lived experiences, which she first discusses in her previous books on breaking the silence about mental illness in the church and in marriage. After her 16-year-old niece Sydney died by suicide in 2020, Lund felt the urgency to write Blessed Youth. This book helps equip adults to destigmatize mental illness among young people and create safe spaces for them to share their experiences and know they are not alone.
Despite the crisis, Lund stresses that we can and must hold onto hope; we have hope because each of us is called to be a blessing for our blessed youth. The children are not okay, and it is okay to not always be okay. Recognizing and naming this is the first step toward healing.
Throughout the book, Lund shares research, statistics and stories of lived experiences with mental illness, and she offers specific actions we can take. She urges adults to educate ourselves about the warning signs and early interventions, care for our own mental health and advocate for equitable access to mental health care for young people. Lund emphasizes that youth empowerment is crucial. Young people want to talk with others – particularly their peers – about what they are going through, and they want to know how they can best support their friends with mental illness. Thus, Lund urges families, schools and faith communities to encourage and provide peer support programs, uphold “youth-led initiatives,” and empower youth to lead their peers in mental health education.
Blessed Youth is an important and timely resource not only for faith leaders, school administrators and guardians, but for anyone who cares about and wants to be a blessing to young people. Since this book includes difficult topics, stories and statistics, Lund recommends readers take breaks when needed and process the book in community.
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