The ABCs of Mental Health for the Urban Youth Worker

Posted by: DVULI | April 21, 2023

By Jordan Francis (Phoenix 2018)

Mental health is a growing topic among youth in our country. We have never seen a generation so outspoken about what’s happening in their inner world.

But what about youth workers?

DVULI has put a stake in the ground, noting that healthy youth workers stay in the game longer and produce healthier organizations.

With that in mind, and it being mental health awareness month, I want us to ask ourselves this:

Are we taking our mental health as seriously as we should be?

Something I always like to mention when I’m in the room with a client is that doing the work of therapy allows you to see the signs in others.

In other words, when you do the work for yourself, you can better see the needs of your youth and point them in the right direction when necessary.

As urban youth workers, we work in challenging environments. Where trauma, anxiety, and depression are common, this environment can take a toll on our mental health, and we need to be aware.

So how do we care for our mental health as urban youth workers?

We will look at a skill developed through dialectical behavioral therapy to answer this question.


The acronym ABC PLEASE gives us a simple way to care for ourselves no matter where we are on the mental health journey.

  • Accumulate Positive Emotions by Doing Things That Are Pleasant
    What do you love to do? What brings you joy? What makes you laugh? Do these things often to help yourself experience positive emotions.
  • Build Mastery
    Do you love to cook? Woodwork? Write? Read? Draw? Develop that skill to the best of your abilities, and you will experience the self-confidence that comes with competence.
  • Cope Ahead
    Do things go wrong in your context? What do you do when tragedy strikes? What process do you have to stay grounded when it does?
  • Treat Physical Illness
    Sometimes the hardest thing for us is to do what the doctor tells us to do. For some of us, it’s in the history of our people not to trust doctors. However, ensuring we treat physical ailments helps us stay healthy mentally.
  • Balanced Eating
    Can you eat a well-rounded diet that has room for treats? Being too restrictive can make our eating habits hard to sustain, but we also must have good boundaries with food. Balance is key.
  • Avoid Mood-Altering Substances
    It’s easy and obvious to think about drugs, but we all have those foods and drinks that completely alter how we operate, and it’s better if we stay away from them. For some of us, we are sensitive to all types of products. Knowing this can help us create suitable environments for our health and productivity.
  • Exercise
    There is plenty of research to suggest that exercise can help our mood. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy. Just moving our bodies in the most basic ways can profoundly impact how we feel.

If anything is going on in your life that is impeding your ability to function, whether in school, work, or relationships, seek professional help.

When we are healthy, it gives those we lead a better chance to be healthy.