MENTOR RESOURCES: Supporting Young People in the Wake of Violence and Trauma

MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership & MHA-NYC Innovations in Mental Health

Episodes of violence and trauma in young people’s communities, especially those that arise from a place of systemic inequality, prejudice and racism, impact young people’s lives in a variety of ways. Mentors are uniquely positioned to help young people process these experiences by providing a space to express their emotions, ask for help, and channel uncertain feelings into positive, constructive action. However, mentors may need strategies for supporting these discussions and actions as well as support for being allies to young people trying to make sense of their feelings. For example, in the aftermath of tragic incidents of racial profiling and violence resulting from police actions, young people may feel unsafe, angry, frustrated, sad, and powerless. This guide was developed to help mentors build relationships with young people that affirm their experiences and cultivate a sense of safety after incidents of violence or traumatic events occur. Additionally, we encourage mentors to convene with their networks and affiliated organizations to discuss these recommendations and apply them to the unique experiences of the communities and young people they serve, and we emphasize the importance of collaboration between youth-serving groups and organizations to facilitate affirming, healing and supportive conversations with young people about violence they have experienced or encountered, and their reactions to these tragic events.


Define your role. Consider what it means to be an ally to young people as they navigate these challenges. Whether or not you and your mentee have similar backgrounds or experiences, your role is to respect and affirm their experiences, help them process their feelings, and consider what actions they can take that will support them and their communities. SUPPORTING YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE WAKE OF VIOLENCE AND TRAUMA SUPPORTING YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE WAKE OF VIOLENCE AND TRAUMA 2

Do your homework. Take time to learn about the factors that impact the overall wellness of the young people you mentor and their communities, including acute losses or traumatic events, as well as more chronic and pervasive challenges like food injustice and homelessness. Consider how your mentee might perceive these issues and what his/ her perspective might be. Talk with other adults and seek professional perspectives on how these issues might impact your mentee, what a supportive conversation with your mentee about these topics might look like, and what kind of additional supports are available to your mentee.

Know yourself. It is important to consider that conversations about race, privilege, and violence may be more harmful than beneficial to young people if you are not able to effectively affirm, attend to, and support young people in expressing their feelings. Often, mentors find these conversations personally challenging. It is important to explore your own biases, emotional triggers, and limitations before entering into a conversation with a young person about a challenging topic. Creating a plan to manage your feelings so you can effectively support your mentee is a key step, and should be part of an ongoing reflection process for mentors.

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