#SLAYLG17 (School Library Association and Youth Library Group 2017 conference)
You could tell that Natasha Devon MBE was immensely committed to the cause of Teenage Mental Health. She spoke with conviction and compassion and made everyone in the room sit up and listen a little bit harder. I live-tweeted her entire talk, desperate to get down every single word, because all of it resonated deeply with us all.
As part of a public library I see a severe lack of teens using our services and I want to turn this around. I want teens to see the library as a safe space where they can get information about life, or work or school.
Natasha started off talking about self-esteem and how it is an issue for both genders, that there is a perception that only girls are affected, and how damaging this is to boys.
She introduced three things she thinks are vastly important to teenage mental health; critical thinking, healthy coping mechanisms and emotional vocabulary.
The first, critical thinking, is a way of combatting the negative body image and self-esteem issues that are perpetuated by the media. If we give teens the tools to break down this constant repetition of ‘you’re not good enough’ by looking at what the media is really saying and why, we can noticeably help improve their self-esteem.
This isn’t just looking at beauty standards for girls, and how boys are told they are weak and not good enough. This is about LGBTQA+ representation that is sorely lacking in the shows and magazines and films that teens are seeing. This lack of representation is another blow to teens’ self-esteem, as it tells them their sexuality or gender identity isn’t valid. With critical thinking, teens are given the armour to look at the world without taking on these damaging ideas and perceptions.
The second; healthy coping mechanisms, she introduced with the idea of the stress-bucket. How healthy people have a tap to empty this bucket before it overflows and causes serious damage. There are ways people try to empty this bucket in unhealthy ways, self-harm, smoking, drugs etc. We need to teach teens that these aren’t actually helping them to feel better, and that exercise, creativity and self-care are important.
Emotional vocabulary was the third technique, Devon pointed out how English is an inadequate tool for communicating how you feel. We have the least amount of words for feelings as a language. Talking about your feelings is incredibly important, we need to be able to let teens vent and process before it’s too late.
Natasha Devon is part of the self-esteem team, and she is worth checking out.
Written by L-B
Warwickshire Libraries have a collection of self books for children and young people, chosen to help the reader feel better and more confident.