Please seen below for the call for articles on the theme of Teen Mental Health for the Fall/Winter issue of the journal of the Young Adult Library Services Association, Young Adult Library Services (YALS).
This post has been updated to reflect the correct content due date of August 17
Teen librarians face many crises when working with their communities of teens, and currently, one of the most serious is teen mental health. Depression is on the rise, and so is suicide, especially among LGBTQ+ teens. The changes in family structure also impact teens. Many of them live in single parent households, where the parent may be forced to work more than one job, and teens may have to step into a parental role for their younger siblings, creating a situation fraught with potential conflicts. Teens may also have to work, to help support the family, or to get the spending money that no longer comes from their parent. The family unit is changing in both positive and negative ways, and they all impact teens.
The number of homeless or houseless teens is also on the rise, as are the dangers of living on the streets, and the predators that find their victims there. With no trusted adult to support them, teens are left to survive with only their teenaged brains and social mores, making them among the most isolated and vulnerable of those without a home. They are having to cope with situations that adult brains could deal with more competently, because the teen brain is still growing.
And isolation is also seen in teens who aren’t on the street. The family unit has weakened, and some parents are busy with their own lives, and don’t spend time at home or with their children. COVID is another of the causes of isolation. Teens were forced to stay home, away from their friends for months and years. And when they were able to resume a “normal” life, it soon became obvious that the old normal was gone, and a new normal had taken its place. Along with everyone else, teens had to learn its rules, and how to function in it.
Social media also contributes to the decline of teens’ mental health. Even some teens are calling for less screen time. The ubiquity of cellphones means that posts and messages reach “everyone” in a teen’s world, and texts sent in haste or in anger will last and continue to have power far beyond that of the spoken word. They don’t fade away and are forgotten. They last, frequently gaining power as they are shared and re-sent over and over again.
These aren’t the only challenges today’s teens face—and one is bullying, in person and online. For some teens, it’s impossible to escape. Because of social media, peer pressure has seldom been as widespread as it is now, and along with bullying that can escalate into violence, and all too often the victims decide to respond with violence, against others or against themselves. Racism, the problem we have faced for hundreds of years, is still a problem, and in some areas, it’s becoming more and more intense. Teen suicide rates are also increasing, especially among LGBTQ+ teens. They must deal with feelings, situations, and settings that straight teens don’t always encounter.
Psychologists tell us that every teen needs at least one trusted adult to support them—not necessarily a parent or family member—but a teacher, coach, boss/supervisor, therapist, an adult from a friend’s family, or a teen librarian. There is no doubt that teen librarians have been, are, and will be making a difference in the lives of teens who come to their library. But we need to look beyond the individual and examine what teen librarians can do on a larger scale, in their community, their region, and their country. Policies need to be changed or challenged. Societal mores need to be challenged too—especially ones that involve teens.
What is happening in your library? Your region or state? What have you done, or could you do to stem the rising tide? We librarians need support if we are going to help create a healthier environment for the teens we serve. And working together requires knowing the other person, exchanging ideas, sharing joy and tears. Helping to make a happier library, school, community, and country.
This issue of YALS focuses on a topic that all of us are aware of but haven’t always figured out a way to deal with it. And I haven’t touched on all the problems, situations, and politics included in the topic of teen mental health. I want to see your ideas, your solutions, your proposals for change. Tell me about your successes, but also tell me about your failures, and give others a chance to suggest some solutions you may not have considered. And because we are a book/material centered profession, I want to hear about the best old and new titles that have made a difference with kids, and why or how they helped create change. I want stories about individuals, and I want stories that involve groups, all kinds, all sizes of groups. I want you to tell me about your favorite materials to go for teens with some of the problems I’ve described above, and your favorite authors who created those materials. I don’t know how many people will respond to this call, but I’d really like a deluge. And to those of you who think your story is too small, or that you can’t tell it as well as others could, please take a chance and send me your ideas and experiences—just a summary is all I need—and it doesn’t need to be long, but you do need to catch my interest. Why does this situation hang around in your brain? Why did you first get involved? Why is it important to you? What have you done, or would like to do about it? I love hearing people’s stories—I hope you’ll send me yours.
Please note that this is a volunteer writing opportunity with no monetary compensation. YALSA has the right to first refusal.
If you have an article idea for this themed issue, please submit article proposals by August 17, 2023. If you know someone who has experience on this topic and would be interested in writing for YALS or have questions, please contact YALS’ editor, Joni Richards Bodart
While the journal’s main focus is on teen literature and programming and services for teens, articles from those dealing with the issue of teen mental health in different professions are encouraged in order to include various perspectives of this topic.
respectively submitted by Joni Bodart, YALS editor