SAN DIEGO — What can youth ministers do to direct young people with anxiety, depression and other challenges toward the help they need?
That question provided the impetus for the diocesan Office for Youth Ministry’s upcoming workshop on mental health.
It will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday, Nov. 11, at the diocesan Pastoral Center. The presenter is Deacon Bill Adsit, the diocese’s mental health ministry coordinator.
“We’re not therapists, we’re not (mental health) professionals, but it always helps to know the red flags,” Maricruz Flores, director of the Office for Youth Ministry, said of fellow youth ministers.
She said the event is open to “anybody who has contact with our young people in our parishes.”
The workshop also will serve as a reminder for participants to make sure that they are taking care of themselves and not ignoring any red flags in their own mental health, said Flores, who made an analogy to how airplane passengers in emergency situations are told to put on their oxygen mask first before helping others.
She hopes the workshop results in a “domino effect” of youth ministers reaching out to young people with mental health challenges and then those young people providing a similar service for their peers, even those outside of their parish communities.
Deacon Adsit, a retired orthopedic surgeon who was ordained to the permanent diaconate last year, has coordinated mental health ministry in the diocese since May 2019. He was appointed to that position by Auxiliary Bishop John Dolan. The Diocesan Mental Health Ministry Network, composed of mental health ministries at local parishes, seeks to accompany those suffering with mental health issues and those who love them, to refer them to mental health professionals, and to work to end the stigma associated with mental illness.
Mental health challenges among the young are a serious concern.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for ages 14 to 18. The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed that 18.8 percent of students reported having seriously considered suicide during 2019.
Deacon Adsit said it is important “to intervene now … and change their thoughts while they’re just thoughts.”
In his upcoming presentation, Deacon Adsit intends to explain the need for mental health outreach; provide youth ministers with helpful online resources, including mental health screening tools available through Mental Health America (mhanational.org); and offer a Catholic perspective on the issue.
He said, “Part of the pathology when kids are thinking about harming themselves (is) they’ve forgotten who they are … and they’ve also forgotten that they have a purpose in their life,” even if that God-given purpose isn’t yet understood.
“These are beloved sons and daughters of our Lord,” he said, “and He loves them and He calls us to love them.”
Register for the workshop by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (858) 490-8262.