Mental Health and Generation “Z”
By Carolyn Hall, M.F.T.
In order to understand more about mental health issues Gen Z is facing, I think it’s important to have more knowledge about Gen Z and who they are. This upcoming generation of kids is between 13 to 20 years of age, and has grown up in a world where information and entertainment is available on demand, via their smartphones. They seem to be spending an equal amount of time in the digital world as they are in the real world.
This population (in general) of teens is less likely to seek out a college degree, as they don’t believe it will lead them to a solid career opportunity. These kids seem pessimistic about debt, obtaining employment and affording housing costs and appear to have less ability to be critical thinkers or have analytic reasoning. They appear to be driven to run their own businesses as they distrust government and corporations and anticipate having a harder life than their parents.
Gen Z seems to be very concerned about making sure that the world is more politically correct and they back the rights of the transgender population, are welcoming to immigrants and believe in the religious rights of humans. They appear interested in making a difference in the way the world operates. Their tech savvy nature cannot be denied and they have incredible ideas on how to improve the technology. Technology seems to be part of who they are.
So, how does this all affect their mental health? We are seeing an increase in depression and self-harming behaviors, but the symptom that is seen the most is an overwhelming and life altering level of anxiety in these kids. They live in a world where they fear terrorism, have access to too much global information and are routinely blasted with the instability and unpredictability of world events. They compare their lives to what others post on Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Gen Z’ers seems to be suffering more, less resilient and overly concerned about grades and family stress.
They are experiencing a sense of hopelessness around schooling, being smart enough, good enough and keeping up with the lifestyles to which they may be accustomed. They are reporting an increase in somatic symptoms (migraines, stomach aches, fibromyalgia) and are having a more difficult time getting to school, engaging in face to face situations and are debilitated by catastrophic thinking and fear of failure.
We, as those who have come before them, must be sensitive to the changes in these mental health issues and work on a way to reduce their stress and pressures. It’s also important as parents to limit the social media access that is dominating the increase in depression for these kids.