Video: Youth Ministry & Mental Health – Interview with Sarah Kamienski

In this video, our own Zach Gurick talks to Sarah Kamienski, licensed mental health counselor and faculty at Flagler College, about youth ministry and mental health.

This interview took place after Sarah’s presentation on Youth Ministry and Mental Health at the Flagler Forum on Youth Ministry at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. Be on the lookout for her full presentation to be released in an upcoming post!

Transcript:

Zach Gurick: So hey! We’re sitting here with Sarah Kamienski. And you just spoke at the Flagler Youth Forum for Youth Ministry, about adolescents and mental health. And you are a licensed mental health counselor and you’ve been doing that for?

Sarah Kamienski: 15 years.

Zach: 15 years, so a lot of experience working with adolescents and mental health obviously. And we are talking about youth workers today so, what would be the ideal scenario for you if a youth worker were to call you and say ‘Hey Sarah, I need some help, I have these students that are having these challenges.” What would you say to youth workers about that situation?

Youth Ministry & Mental Health - Sarah Kamienski

Sarah: Great question. I wish more youth workers would do that to be honest. I would probably be amazed at first, because that has happened so little in my experience, much more recently. But my first probably reaction would be, to could kind of just, that typically happens in crisis, so I would probably walk through, is there eminent danger in this very specific situation? Kind of walk through on what is happening.

But kind of going forward preventative, that kind of thing, I’d probably encourage them to get to know me, to add me to the rolodex of excellent list of people who could be called. I think one of the best things that youth ministers can do is sort of recognize when they are kind of hitting the lid of their own competence. And when they need to get help from a professional.

Just calling me and saying ‘Hey Sarah, this is what just happened.’ If you know me and have a relationship with me it’s a lot easier than just like panicking, you know ‘what would we do next I have a girl who’s cutting and she’s wanting to kill herself’.

So I would say preventatively, seek out a few counselors in your area, cultivate relationships with them so that you could have an ongoing relationship there. And then additionally I would love to… (Excuse me) I just talked to a youth pastor about this 2 days ago – as a counselor I would love to like partner with you and depending on your obviously your church and what is your situation is. But if you are interested in a kind of training yourself, your staff, and the other youth volunteers that you have to kind of go over, some of just the basics of listening, kind of crisis intervention, you know – is this an ongoing problem? is this a crisis? what is our protocol? and that kind of thing.

I think just talking about having conversations about those things can sort of help people know what to do so they don’t panic, they are not acting reactively, but instead they are offering soul care that is consistent with who they want to be as youth ministers.

Zach: Soul care… that’s a good word…

Sarah: Yeah

…just having conversations about those things can sort of help people know what to do so they don’t panic, they are not acting reactively, but instead they are offering soul care that is consistent with who they want to be as youth ministers.

Zach: So maybe having a bit of a plan and a place, having those relationships built ahead of time rather than, ‘Oh my gosh! This just happened, now what would I do?’

Sarah: If possible, don’t wait for the crisis – try to identify a few people in the area in advance who could be helpful in working alongside.

Zach: Do you have some partnerships like that; you mentioned you spoke with a youth pastor a couple days ago. Do you have partnerships here locally; is that an ongoing thing for you?

If possible, don’t wait for the crisis – try to identify a few people in the area in advance who could be helpful in working alongside.

Sarah: I think it’s kind of a thing on the rise and I’ve just kind of entered into the youth ministry department at Flagler. But I would say every connection that I make with the youth minister, the more we talk, the more their face kind of lights up and oh, there is hope here, there are answers to some of these problems. And by answers I just mean, an ability to learn how to create a safe space for someone to be where they are, because that’s, in general, what we do in counseling. But just knowing what kind of framework is for that, I think is really helpful and it dismantles a lot of fear.

Zach: Yeah I would say, thank you so much for what you are doing. In 15 years of youth ministry experience there have been, many times where I hit that competency and been way over my head. Just having someone like you as a partner that is involved would be an amazing gift.

Sarah: Absolutely, thank you.

Zach: Appreciate it.

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