Walking Alongside Youth in Lebanon

Mar 21, 2024

A Look into Our Mental Health Ministry at Schools

Two and a half years ago, our mental health team began working with two schools we serve: the Beirut Evangelical School for Girls and Boys (BESGB) and Nazarene Evangelical School (NES). Since then, the team has seen youth from grades 7 to 12 struggling with various issues, including academic performance, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and social problems (e.g., peer pressure, bullying, etc.) 

But most of their issues, according to James Darwish [Mental Health Coordinator], spring from a dysfunction within their family.

James shared:

“At school, kids exhibit symptoms of the real problem at home. I think the biggest challenge in family issues is the limitation of how far we can help.”

But by speaking to James and Karmen, the counselors at our mental health program, youth feel they can share their struggles with a trusted adult.

He added:

I think they can connect things better, which gives them relief because they can understand why they’re feeling a certain way. They feel like they have a consistent, non-judgemental listener. And that’s what therapy or counseling is—walking alongside someone else. As we walk with them, ask them questions and get them to think differently about their life situation, identify their strengths, and feel like they can overcome their challenges.

On a practical level, our counselors, James and Karmen, teach youth coping skills such as deep breathing, journaling, and tracking their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. The teenage years are a critical time for character development. During this stage, teens ask important questions like “Who am I?” or “Why am I here?” They endure much pressure while trying to figure out who they are. They go through temptations and resort to harmful coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol, toxic relationships, and self-harm. Mental health support can help them navigate this time in their lives. 

During the sessions with James and Karmen, teens can discuss God’s presence in their lives and beliefs. Then, it allows James and Karmen to point out how God can help.

“When they are aligned with God,” James shared, “they will fully experience peace.”

A girl came to James exhibiting depression symptoms such as missing many days of school and self-harm. She had a very negative outlook on life. So, James helped her get to the root of her feelings. One of the strategies was to examine whether her thoughts were accurate or true, helping her challenge some of her beliefs about herself and seeing life from a more positive perspective.

James shared,

“One of the biggest challenges was her relationship with her family. Many things are out of her control because she isn’t yet an adult. We cannot remove young people from their toxic living environment, but we can help them become resilient in situations they have no control over.”

Over five months, James noted a significant change in that girl, a decrease in her self-harming tendencies, and an improvement in her relationships and overall well-being. She also expressed her desire to have a relationship with God, and in his words,

“I am seeing the power of God working through her as she draws closer to him. She has been attending a youth group, too, recently. God has become a strong source of strength in her life.”

The mental health team at YFC has unique opportunities to minister Jesus to youth. They are open to receiving the Gospel, and many are open to receiving the wisdom of counselors. Continue to pray for counselors as they help more youth. And pray for the youth in Lebanon. At this crucial age, the enemy wants to put in their mind that they need to fit a specific mold. So pray they would see their identity in God and know He dearly loves them.