The Librarian is In: Helping Teens Cope with Tough Stuff

The Librarian is In

When I was in library school, I knew that part of my role as a Teen Services Librarian would be forming close relationships with teen patrons, serving as a mentor, a teacher, and a trusted adult. I studied up on teen development, I made sure I knew how to set personal boundaries, but one thing I didn’t quite grasp was that teens were going to trust me with some serious, personal information. 

The Librarian is In

This year marks my 10th anniversary of being a professional Teen Services Librarian, and throughout that time I’ve had teens talk to me about eating disorders, cutting, alcoholic parents, parents struggling with mental health issues, their own mental health issues, incarcerated parents, drug use, running away from home, a spectrum of relationship issues (both romantic and platonic), and toughest of all, suicide. I’ve had multiple teens come out to me as LGBTQIA+ before telling their parents, often seeking advice for how to talk to their families about their identities.

I love that my teens view me as a trusted ally, but boy, the pressure to respond in just the right way is staggering, and it can be really heavy to carry all of that knowledge without being properly trained.

For anyone working with teens or thinking about working with teens, I highly recommend finding continuing education opportunities to help you help your teens as they deal with these issues, and to help yourself as well. Opportunities are highly dependent on location, but one of the positive things about the pandemic is that there are a lot of great Zoom courses and webinars available.

Mental Health Partners – If you are in Colorado like me, I can’t recommend the trainings from Mental Health Partners enough. I took their QPR Suicide Prevention training course and it was incredibly informative and empowering.

Mental Health First Aid training – Created by the National Center for Mental Wellbeing in partnership with the Born This Way Foundation, this training will help you recognize and communicate with folks in crisis. Versions of this course exist for adults, teens, older adults, etc. I did the all-day training via Zoom through Mental Health Partners Colorado and it was invaluable. Search their website to find a course in your area.

Please, don’t be afraid to talk to teens about difficult subjects! Empower yourself to be able to cope and help them cope properly.

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