1. Mental Health Awareness Month
What it is: May is mental health awareness month, making mental health and suicide prevention bigger topics than ever. #mentalhealthmatters has around 42 billion views on TikTok, and #mentalhealthawareness has racked up 20 billion.
Why the conversation is changing: The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior survey showed that suicidal ideation, especially for teenage girls, is continuing on a concerning trajectory. In 2021, 30% of girls said that they had seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 24% said they had an actual plan to end their life. According to data published by Mental Health America, 16.4% of youth reported experiencing a major depressive episode within the last 12 months. This news comes at a time when adults are feeling so lonely that the US surgeon general has declared loneliness a public health emergency. Stigma around mental health topics appears to be eroding, but that isn’t necessarily leading to better mental health outcomes for teens and for the population at large.
Conversation Starter: What do you think are the biggest contributors to mental health issues for your generation? (Check out our new video series on Mental Health for more help having this conversation!)
2. A Wider Rainbow
What it is: Newly-published CDC data from 2021 found that one in four teenagers now identify as homosexual, bisexual, or are questioning their sexuality.
Why it matters: Only 75% of teens surveyed said that they were attracted only to the opposite sex. This is consistent with the trend that we’ve observed for several years, but represents a sharp enough uptick to get mainstream media attention. Even if your teen feels settled about their sexual identity, it’s more likely than ever that they care deeply about a friend who is questioning who they are attracted to. With a quarter of teens describing themselves as queer, teens no longer operate under the assumption that the peers they meet will be heterosexual. With same-sex attraction increasingly normalized in every space, frequent conversations about this topic are inescapable.
Conversation Starter: What would you say to a friend who said they thought they were gay or bisexual?
What it is: Geoffrey Hinton was one of the industry leaders in developing AI. This week, he announced he was retiring from Google to be able to speak more freely about the concerns he has about the technology.
Why he changed his mind: It isn’t completely clear what spooked Hinton. His fears seem to be rooted in how quickly the technology is moving forward. For over a decade, he oversaw a Google research team in Toronto that focused on deep learning and automated neural networks, and he maintains that the company has acted very responsibly with their own tech. More optimistic industry experts say that now is the moment to have a conversation about how we want to use AI, but Hinton seems to fear that AI could become more powerful than human intelligence—which would render human attempts to limit its use a fruitless effort. Integrations like the default AI chatbot that’s now built into all Snapchat interactions make AI feel like an ever-present invasion in the 2023 cultural atmosphere.
Conversation Starter: How do you think AI will affect our world?
Song of the Week
“un x100to” by Grupo Frontera and Bad Bunny: After teaming up with Latin megastar Bad Bunny, this group of soulful Mexican cowboys made it to the #2, #4, and #5 spots on the Spotify, Apple Music, and Billboard Hot 100 charts respectively. Bad Bunny believes that it’s important for the world to be exposed to other Latin music genres besides “reggaeton, perreo, and urban music,” which is part of why he was excited to collaborate on this “regional Mexican” song with Grupo Frontera. The song is entirely in Spanish, the title translates to “one percent,” and the song is essentially about using the last 1% of his phone battery to tell his ex how much he misses her. For the full Spanish lyrics, click here; for an English translation, click here.
Mental health, LGBTQ+, and AI: three massive topics that are each shaping our world in profound ways. Each conversation comes with complex emotions, and each one is changing how our culture thinks about what it means to be human.
Frankly, these are topics that many of us may not feel prepared to discuss—but in today’s day and age, we have to be ready for them. Though some topics may feel difficult, triggering, or even overwhelming, as Christians we can take heart that nothing about our culture is overwhelming for our God.
In John 16:33, Jesus says to His disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In other words, Jesus acknowledged that at times, life in this world would be extremely challenging and complicated. But then, as various translations render it, He tells His disciples to “take heart,” to “be brave,” to “take courage,” to “be courageous,” and even to “be of good cheer.”
Why does Jesus issue this command to be encouraged? Because when Jesus says He has “overcome the world,” He’s saying that He is bigger, stronger, wiser and more capable than all of the problems, complications, and difficulties that life in this world can involve. He never promised that things would be easy, but He promised that He would be with us, and for us.
We hope you enjoyed having conversation starters at the end of each of our top 3 things this week. Here are a few more questions that could help spark additional conversation with your teens:
- Have you ever seen God show up in a powerful way? If so, what happened? What was it like?
- Do you think God only shows up if we expect him to? Why or why not?
- Which of these three topics (mental health, LGBTQ+, AI) would you say is currently making the biggest impact on your school?