by Ted Oden, Member of First Christian Church, Torrance
At our Regional Assembly last month, I asked Susan [Gonzales Dewey, Co-Regional Minister] if our region or even our entire national Disciples ministry had any, or supported any mental health programs. Her answer was that there may be local community activities, but no, there was nothing that she knew of at the regional or national level.
My interest came from participating in an ecumenical faith community panel where we were asked to provide input as to what we are doing to support and educate those affected, and address the skyrocketing rate of suicide in our culture's youth.
The request came from the Volunteer Center in Torrance, a non-profit with access to funding and a mission to effectively meet the needs of our local community.
During our session, we were told that in 2012 sociologists noticed that the teen suicide rate began increasing significantly. Also significant is the fact that although smart phones were introduced earlier, 2012 was the year that the United States became saturated with smart phones. This saturation includes our youth.
Along with smart phone saturation came isolation, cyber bullying, and other historically anti-social behaviors. While there is no direct causality, there is a definite correlation between smart phone use and increased mental health problems such as suicide.
According to Dr Jean Twenge, author of the book iGen, teens on average log 6 to 9 hours of non-education smart phone use PER DAY. She challenges parents to limit their children's non-educational smart phone use to one hour per day and to replace it with healthy alternatives such as family time outdoors, or reading a book. Of course in order to be effective, parents must be willing to limit their own smart phone use to one hour per day.
So what can we do? Is there anything we can do together as regional Disciples? As national Disciples?
Here are a few possibilities:
1. Start small – Compile a list of local congregation resources across the Pacific Southwest Region.
2. Increase awareness – Educate our faith community and local families.
3. Step out in faith – Embrace this situation as the opportunity that it is, to serve our local faith and secular communities in a very real and tangible way.
Taking these steps can make us more relevant to our communities and that can only be good for the viability of our faith communities, and can help us reach more people with the good news of the love of God in Jesus Christ.
To express interest in forming or supporting a PSWR action group, please contact the PSWR Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.