As I finished up the school year of speaking I wanted to share some thoughts about what I learned this year. I knew this already but it was strongly reinforced after every school assembly that I delivered. My speaking topics were dignity, respect, and compassion. I also speak about addiction and mental health issues in my drug and alcohol presentations to teens. There are multiple things that I learned but I feel that they all revert back to one common theme. Kids NEED someone to talk to.
Youth speakers hold a unique position. Other youth speakers know this. Students will tell us things that no one else knows. There are many reasons for this. It is easy to talk to us because we are vulnerable with them and share about ourselves in front of hundreds of students. We don’t work in the school so what they tell us leaves with us. We are safe because we won’t judge them, again we are leaving and don’t know any of their history. Yet they have been carrying this baggage for so long.
I am in the process of reading 52 books in 52 weeks. One of the last ones I read documented that alcohol, tobacco, drug use, and sexual promiscuity are all down. However, stress, anxiety, depression, and suicide are all up with this generation. Why? There is a lack of personal contact between people much of which is linked to screen time and cell phone usage. No one knows how or even why to talk to anyone anymore. I don’t have the solution to this but know in my heart that if we could all be just a bit more vulnerable and honest about mental health, we are starting to see this in the news, we could move the conversation forward.
We have insulated out kids so much. Maybe it started after 9/11. I get it everyone wants to be safe. But we have made them so insulated that they are losing the ability to talk out and share their struggles. We need to do better as adults connecting with kids.