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Millennial Mentoring Helps Young Adults Navigate Mental Illness

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Suicide rates are so high these days. Everyone is looking for ways to deal with this. I want to share with you a way to mentor millennials towards better mental health by learning a new way to connect, communicate and care.

As a mentor for young adults, I spend over 1,000 hours a year one-on-one over Skype (virtually face-to-face, as it were) with people in their teens and 20s who have been robbed of the opportunities to share their deepest fears, their deepest pains and even the small stuff that can snowball into an emotional Armageddon. The first thing me and the people I train as mentors offer these young adults is a forum to be heard judgment-free.

This is not something that can just be given lip service, it is in the actions that we open the door for dialogue.

These teens and young adults have replaced questioning life, emotions, struggles and personal daemons with Facebook, Snapchat, Pokemon Go and other visual fast-food consumptions.

To quote one of my clients: "If I have ever been good at anything, it is distracting myself." The same client shared this: "Optimism has been pressed out of me like the last bit of toothpaste from the tube." One last quote from this millennial is one that should give you cause for pause: "We were brought up to not believe advertisements but to ignore them. You [the older generation] have to prove whatever you say [to us]. Just because you say something doesn't mean I will believe it."

This is the millennial conundrum: Avoiding emotions, bereft of hope and expecting us to prove any platitude we thrust at them... That is where we begin mentoring young adults and millennials.

But before we begin, let me quote a much older cynic of the machinations of mankind -- Cervantes.

"I do not think they were asking why they were dying, but why they had ever lived... When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams, this may be madness; to seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness! And maddest of all -- to see life as it is and not as it should be!"

Being too practical = madness

Surrendering dreams = madness!

Seeking out treasure amongst the trash.

Seeing life as it should be.

Wow! Maybe Cervantes was a millennial!

Here is the other important thing to know in mentoring young adults:

There is no magic bullet to avoid suicidal thoughts. Almost everyone has them. I have had them as well. There have been times in my life when I had them on a daily basis and other times where they were on an hourly basis. These days it is a bi-yearly thing.

People who know me might be shocked by my admission here. I am a true optimist and believe greatly in mankind's ability to rise to its greatest and yet... most of us have our dark moments.

Not all suicidal thoughts are about killing oneself. Sometimes they are wishing to have never been born in the first place. The can end up being the same though.

For those wishing to mentor young adults or troubled teens... here is the tool you will need to help them connect, communicate and care.

The cone of silence.

I was a huge Get Smart fan. One of their regular bits was when Chief had an important piece of information to share with Max. Max would ask for the cone of silence. It was supposed to stop anyone else from listening in but apparently, everyone outside could hear really well but the speaker and the listener never heard each other.

We live in that cone of silence: Everyone outside seems to know what is going in in our circle and the ability for millennials to talk about their emotions; struggles and personal daemons fall on deaf ears.

BTW, telling them that:

1. You also had those feelings, or
2. "it's nothing", or
3. "it will all get better over time", or
4. "how could you feel that way when we give you everything you want" or even
5. "OMG! Let's call every doctor, therapist, on the planet and have our little Poopsie seen tonight!!!"

is still... the cone of silence.

The New Cone of Silence (COS) - Judgment-free Listening - No Sucker Punches

This is not going to be easy for either side. For the millennials... they are expecting judgment... over-reactions... or minimization. For the parents/mentors... we really want to judge... over-react... or (out of fear and wanting to help) minimize.

Here it is:

Cone of silence rules (kind of Los Vegas rules) What is talked about in COS stays in COS.

Millennial: Mom/Dad, I want to use the cone of silence.
Parent: OK. Let's begin.
Millennial: Explains their feelings. Their fears. Their frustrations.
Parent: Listen. Try not to show any visible expressions except support and unconditional love. Say back what you heard in your own words and ask if that is what you heard.
Millennial: Agrees that it is what they said or clarifies.
Parent: Empathize with how they feel -
Parent: Ask how the Millennial wants to proceed. - follow their lead as long as it is not going to endanger them or others.

Cone of Silence = Connection and Communication

Let them choose how you should proceed with the information judgment-free = Caring.

NB: Never bring up what is said in the Cone of Silence unless they do first and still check that it's OK.

This is life as it should be.
A place where we listen, judgment-free and allow people to grow and rise above their challenges.

Please share this with anyone struggling with being overwhelmed in the world.

May the Creator bless you and keep you (in its embrace).
May its countenance shine upon you (be face to face with it).
and may it find you charming (when the judgment might not be so good).

Interested in mentoring Millennials? Check out www.MentorsProfessionalWorkshop.com

Know a Millennial in need of mentoring? Check out www.MentoringYoungAdults.com

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