You’ve heard about the youth mental health statistics. So have we. That is why it’s imperative that, together, we build spaces where teens can thrive. Learn four shifts that every middle school parent can make to better youth mental health outcomes.

Mental Health America ranks states that have the highest rates of teen mental illness using seven factors. These are

  1. Youth with at least one major depressive episode (MDE) – MDE is defined as “a period of two weeks or longer in which a person experiences certain symptoms of major depression: feelings of sadness and hopelessness, fatigue, weight gain or weight loss, changes in sleeping habits, loss of interest in activities, or thoughts of suicide” (according to
  2. Youth with substance use disorder in the past year
  3. Youth with severe MDE
  4. Youth with MDE who did not receive mental health services
  5. Youth with severe MDE who received some consistent treatment
  6. Youth with private insurance that did not cover mental or emotional problems
  7. Students (K+) identified with Emotional Disturbance for an Individualized Education Program

Even though the statistics may be alarming, there is hope.

Starting as early as late elementary and early middle school, students can make mental shifts that set them in motion toward a positive view of themselves and the world around them. This can contribute significantly to improved mental health.

With a strong supportive network of family, school, faith, and friends, here are four shifts that help middle school students have a positive mental mindset.

1. Place middle school teens in an environment that helps them understand how they are wired, and what they’re good at, and allows them to practice failing in a safe place.

Parents’ Impact on Youth Mental Health

Studies show that parents still have the No. 1 spot when it comes to impacting their children for positive health outcomes. As a parent, when your child enters middle school, it’s an exciting time. 

But it can also feel overwhelming. On one hand, your child is gaining new independence; on the other hand, your child is gaining new independence! (And this can bring its own challenges.)

So, take heart. We want to help you learn how to encourage your middle school students to be confident in who they are. Our middle school resource guide has helpful tips to remind you that parenting through these years does not have to feel like a slippery slope, and you do not have to go it alone.

A School’s Impact on Youth Mental Health

Besides parenting through the middle school and high school years, school has a huge impact on your teen’s youth mental health status. The home is one environment where students can thrive, and school is another one.

It helps if students attend a school where they are seen, known, and valued for who they are. At Learnwell, one of our core values is helping students discover how they’re wired and what their passions are. In Psychology of Well-Being, author Robert J. Vallerand found a link between a passion for an intentional interest or activity and psychological well-being.

He wrote, “. . . having a passion for an activity represents an important type of high involvement in activities that may lead to sustainable positive effects on psychological well-being.”

One of the ways we help students learn what they’re passionate about is by giving them opportunities to try, reflect on how they learned, and try again until they find something that they want to engage in. Middle school students are particularly prone to wonder who they are, and we feel it’s our role to support the development of deep faith and reinforce what you are teaching them at home.

All of our teachers and staff are Christians, and our middle school discipleship course allows students to ask questions, explore what they believe and why they believe it, and integrate those beliefs into daily life and experiences, even serving their younger peers by helping our kindergarten and first-grade students weekly.

2. Encourage your middle school student to remember that he or she is an intricately created, amazing person, who is not measured by what he or she achieves.

Remember when your child was growing from an infant to a toddler and then, suddenly, a school-aged kindergartener? Well, that explosive growth and development happens again around the age of 11. These are when the “teen” factors of individuation start to develop.

“. . . having a passion for an activity represents an important type of high involvement in activities that may lead to sustainable positive effects on psychological well-being.”

– Robert J. Vallerand, author of Psychology of Well-Being

It’s important to celebrate where your child is during this stage, and we want to walk with you through that process because it can feel daunting. Our caring teachers and staff smile at your middle school student when they walk through the hallways, reminding them that they’re in a safe, friendly environment where being who they are is enough.

Learn more about how our team of teachers partners with you to stir up your child’s confidence and positive identity in our middle school guide.

3. Communicate with one another regularly, often, and in an open-ended way.

While some middle school students wouldn’t jump up and down about having a conversation with a parent or other trusted adult, it’s important anyway. Regular communication with your middle school child helps them feel validated, heard, and safe when they do open up.

We encourage parents to ask open-ended questions, check in regularly about how their child is feeling but without being pushy, and let their child take risks.

Taking risks and communicating to your child that it’s okay to fall down in those risks is so important. If we stifle our middle school teens from trying new things, we also stifle their ability to learn what they love and, possibly, something they were created to do.

youth mental health
Even if your middle schooler doesn’t open up right away, asking open-ended questions lets him or her know that you care.

Communication with your child also helps you learn about his or her friendships and helps you provide encouragement about how to navigate those relationships as they grow. Do you want additional strategies to boost youth mental health and teach them good decision-making skills? Learn more here

4. With your guidance, allow your child to explore age-appropriate tools and resources for better youth mental health – including a supportive community of friends.

Some of these resources include ways to remain clear-headed in the face of anxiety-producing situations or friendships. Other tools may give your teen the understanding he or she needs to be part of a community of friends who build each other up rather than tear each other down.

One reason so many families have turned to Learnwell North Georgia is its emphasis on an encouraging community atmosphere and intentional family margin.

Our very first core value is intentional margin. We believe teens – and families as a whole – do better when they aren’t scheduled so much that they have little space to breathe or pursue areas of passion and interest.

That’s why our middle and high school programs are two full days at school and three days at home. We want students to have the time and space they need to find friends who are good for them and to find hobbies or interests that spur their desire to learn and enjoy life.

Learnwell provides after-school activities, field trips, and events so that middle school students can connect with their peers and families can connect with other families. We want your teen to thrive – it’s what we want for our teens too. And our smaller class sizes mean that students get to know their teachers well and they feel known by their teachers.

If you are looking for a middle school program that supports youth mental health, Learnwell might be a good fit for you and your family. Attend our informational meeting, Discover Learnwell, where we provide you with the information you need to find the right place for your middle school student to shine.