Church Worldwide: Teen Mental Health Tools for Faith Communities


Faith communities have a new tool kit to use in reaching out to youth ages 14 to 18 to talk about mental health. The “Say It Out Loud” program comes from the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI).

According to Mary Giliberti, executive director of NAMI, faith communities and civic groups that sponsor youth groups are in a unique position to encourage teen conversations. “One in five teens live with mental health conditions. Less than half get help, and more than 4,000 teens die from suicide every year,” she said in a release. “It’s time to end the silence. It’s time to talk constructively about mental health with young people. It’s time to say it out loud.”

“Say It Out Loud,” a free tool kit available for downloading, includes a narrated presentation and a discussion guide for adult youth leaders, fact sheets, and a video of three teens sharing their own experiences and addressing the 10 most common warning signs of mental health problems.

Giliberti said teens who see warning signs in themselves or friends need to take them seriously and know how to get help. “NAMI can provide the tools, but it’s religious and civic leaders who can inspire broad conversations in their communities,” said Giliberti. “We need to reach out to teens who are looking for guidance or who themselves are leaders among their peers.” 

The 10 Warning Signs

  1. Feeling very sad, withdrawn or unmotivated for more than two weeks.
  2. Making plans or trying to harm or kill oneself.
  3. Out-of-control, risk-taking behaviors.
  4. Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing.
  5. Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight; significant weight loss or weight gain.
  6. Severe mood swings causing problems in relationships.
  7. Excess use of drugs or alcohol.
  8. Drastic changes in behavior, personality or sleeping habits.
  9. Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still.
  10. Intense worries or fears getting in the way of daily activities like hanging out with friends or going to classes.

—from a National Alliance on Mental Health press release