Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Professor Richard Ross revealed in an interview with the Baptist Press that the primary step to fighting the mental health crisis in the country, which is more common among the youth, is the Gospel and a personal relationship with Jesus.
The Baptist Press said Ross believes that the mental health crisis will not go away once the pandemic is gone. The mental health crisis is, as per Ross, a reflection of the cultural relapse the youth are experiencing right now, since a majority of which have lost their relationship with God.
"Any time a culture collapses, there will be pain and harm in people's lives. Sadly, the first people to experience that pain and injury will be the most vulnerable--the children and teenagers. Ultimately, the young are at risk because the majority in the U.S. have turned their backs on God. Those who care for the young will need to join the Great Physician to keep children and teenagers from experiencing harm even after the pandemic," Ross said.
"Teenagers most need heart transplants to move from drowning in crisis to flourishing. And Jesus is the only one who can perform such transplants. Meeting Jesus is the beginning of transformation," he added.
In May, Christianity Daily reported that COVID-19 lockdowns resulted in more teen suicides based on data released by Mental Health America. The data showed that the pandemic had a "profound negative effect on the mental health of the nation" that led to "an increasing number of people experiencing anxiety, depression, psychosis, loneliness, and other mental health concerns."
The MHA revealed that there were 2.6 million people who took the mental health screen in 2020, showing a 200% increase as compared to that of 2019. Of those who took the mental health screen for the said period, 42% are teenagers whose ages range from 11 to 17 and 31% by youths aged 18 to 24.
Ross, who teaches Southwestern Seminary young pastors, said that a personal relationship with Jesus is developed alongside pastoral accompaniment of the young. This is done by asking youth ministers to come up with a list of counselors who are "biblically faithful."
Another step is for youth ministers to ensure that teens develop "warm, strong heart connections" with their parents, mentors, and "spiritually healthy congregation members" for this is pivotal to their capacity to withstand any trial in life.
"Teenagers isolated and cut off from the significant adults in their lives are always at risk. Teenagers who live with solid heart connections with significant adults can weather almost any storm in life," Ross explained.
On the other hand, North American Mission Board National Next Gen Director Shane Pruitt shared with the Baptist Press that he urges youth leaders to be ready with responses for mental health needs. Pruitt also, like Ross, stressed the importance of having counselors who are Christians for recommendation to students.
Pruitt said a discipleship process that incorporates "Gospel-centered, biblical help for mental health issues" is necessary in the face of self-diagnosis being practiced among the youth.
"We don't need 15-year-olds diagnosing other 15-year-olds with depression and anxiety. I think we just got to have an answer to those things. If the church largely remained silent on mental health, and the culture screams it, then a whole generation only hears one worldview," Pruitt said.
This requires, Pruitt underscored, bringing parents into the picture and equipping them on mental health issues.