"And how are the children?" Rev. Sarah Griffith Lund references the African Masai tribe's traditional greeting throughout her book, Blessed Youth: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness with Children and Teens. After revealing devastating statistics of increasing suicide and depression rates, Lund asks: "How are the children?" Recounting the story of her niece's death by suicide, Lund questions: "How are the children?"
Sandwiched between reflections on her childhood and testimonies of youth with mental illness, Lund pleads: "How are the children?" Rev. Lund argues that it is the duty of adults to educate themselves on mental illness to support the youth and children around them as the mental health crisis in the United States intensifies. She offers her book as a way to do just that. Blessed Youth is a sound introductory resource for youth leaders and churches seeking to understand mental illness and support children and youth during the intensifying mental health crisis.
The book features eight short chapters. The first few chapters focus on the mental health crisis as it pertains to children and teens, and the final chapters relate ways that institutions can support youth.
Blessed Youth is a quick read, though the content is heavy, and readers are cautioned to read with care. Information is conveyed with a mix of scientific research, statistics, and personal stories; everyone's learning style is considered. Using organized and clear language, Lund gives a thorough introduction to mental illness, specifically related to youth in the United States, including the researched effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on this younger generation. Alongside the devastating statistics, Lund offers examples of healthy ways to talk with children about big feelings and the reassurance that God loves them through it all.
Without placing blame, Lund aptly names intergenerational trauma, family systems, and parent wellness as risk factors for poor mental health among youth. It is everyone's responsibility to care for the children, she argues. The onus is on all the adults surrounding youth to educate and examine themselves and to truly listen to young people's stories. She calls adults to support youth mental health in all areas of their lives: home, school, and church.
For congregations and youth leaders who are beginning to evaluate the role they play in supporting their youth's mental health, Blessed Youth is a brilliant and compelling introduction. Those who have already identified this need and educated themselves may not learn new information, but the book offers a good refresher. Because Lund draws on her experiences as a family member, pastor, and person affected by mental illness, her approach to care for our youth is holistic. "How are the children?" she asks. Within our communities, despite the crisis raging around them, they are blessed:
Blessed are the youth who live with mental illness. They are the constellation of stars in our collective night sky. Born into existence, coming out of chaos, they shine a great light in the shadows. . . We dedicate this work to them.
Emily Hunsberger serves as Communications Director for ADN and is responsible for the newsletter, blog, and other communications and resources. With a bachelor's degree in Biblical and Theological studies from Bluffton University, Emily developed an enthusiasm for creating healthy communities in college, and she remains convinced that communities are healthiest when everyone is welcomed and embraced as they are. Emily believes that members of the community function best when needs are met, and she is passionate about breaking down the barriers that prevent true community from forming.