The Plight of Gen Z's Mental Struggles and Understanding Them
Gen Z, or colloquially known as Zoomers are demographic born after 1996 and before 2013. Unlike their predecessors and generations before them, Zoomers are more exposed to an increase in violence, sexual harassment and assault reports, and climate change concerns. With the COVID-19 pandemic ripping and tearing apart daily lives and long-term plans, Generation Z's confidence in their governments, financial situation, and access to healthcare is waning. However, compared to generations before them, Gen Zs are more likely to address their mental struggles, including stress, anxiety and depression, and seek help for it. Here, we examine potential causes of depression among Gen Z and ways in which they can seek help.
A study revealed that between 2009 and 2017, depression rates increased more than:
- 47% among 12–13 years old adolescents
- 60% among 14–17 years old teens
- 46% among young adults of 18–21 years old
Gen Zs are aware of their struggles with anxiety and depression too. According to a survey of adolescents aged 13 to 17, 70% of respondents consider anxiety and depression to be cause for concern among their peers. In a different study, suicide reports showed an increase among:
- adolescents 15–19 years old, from 8 per 100,000 in 2000 to 11.8 per 100,000 in 2017.
- young adults 20–24 years old, from 12.5 per 100,000 in 2000 to 17 per 100,000 in 2017.
However, because death certificates may contain errors, such as intentional opioid overdose recorded as accidental, the research for the study is limited.
Why Do Gen Z Have Higher Depression Rates?
With the advent of various technological advancements and news and social media outlets, the same stressors experienced by the generations before them are now more intense, causing more distraught. According to the same survey, Gen Zs are generally more anxious than adults about the following important national news issues:
- Increase in overall suicide rates
- Separation and deportation of immigrant and migrant families
- Reports of sexual harassment and assault
Climate change is another concerning and anxiety-fuelling subject among Gen Z, something the past generations weren’t troubled about. This is evident in a survey disclosing that Gen Z adults are more involved and passionate about climate change as compared to Gen X, Boomers, and in most cases, Millennials.
Granted, the realm of social media is not foreign to Generation Z, but it does present some challenges unique to them, particularly those on the younger end of the timeline. For instance, researchers discovered a connection between problematic social media usage (PSMU) and depression in a study of Gen Z adolescents aged 10 to 17, together with:
- challenges with impulse control
- difficulties with goal-oriented behaviour
Other Challenges and Setbacks for Gen Z
Like many of us, COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on Generation Z’s mental health. A survey conducted saw:
- 37% of Gen Z individuals said they were so anxious about the pandemic that they found it difficult to make simple decisions, and 50% say they found it difficult to make important life decisions. (Millennials, found it even harder to make decisions)
- 79% experienced changes in behaviour brought on by stress.
- Nearly half (45%) of Gen Z poll participants said they were unsure of how to handle the stress caused by the epidemic.
Understandably, the COVID-19 pandemic along with being in quarantine disrupted everyday problems that could have previously contributed to Generation Z’s depression and stress, such as:
- healthcare access
- personal finances and debt
- the economy
Government institutions and political climates, including how they perceive race issues, may also play a role in Generation Z's mental health.
Always Seek Help
There’s no shame in seeking help. In order to manage depression, anxiety and stress, Gen Zs can consider the following:
- Talk to a professional. During the COVID-19 pandemic, quarantining paved the way and normalised tele-health and teletherapy, allowing people to easily access experienced counsellors and therapists regardless of their location.
- Alternative medicinal therapies or medication prescribed by professionals. To help someone manage their depression and anxiety, a doctor may provide short- or long-term psychotropic medication, depending on their circumstances. They may also discuss the advantages of alternative and complementary therapies.
- Join a support group. Another option for Zoomers would be to partake in online support groups or in-persons — a cost-effective and convenient way to express their issues with fellow peers dealing with the same concerns.
Youth-initiated mentoring (YIM), according to current studies, is also advantageous for teenagers, particularly those from low-income households and ethnic minorities. It may be a good idea for mentors and Gen Z teenagers to build connections, facilitated by teachers, social workers, and other adults like parents and guardians.
It’s a sad fact that Gen Zs are growing up and coming of age in a time where heightened stress and anxiety is ever prevalent. They have to deal with a plethora of issues from violence, natural disasters to global pandemic in a short period of time. This could be the possible factor why they record higher rates of depression and other mental health conditions than the generation before them. They are also more open to report and speak up about these problems and seek help for it. Always seek help from family and friends or a third party such as mental health providers, who will be able to dole out proper treatment options for depression, which may include talk therapy or medications.