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Mental Health: millenials and Gen Z

Ada Marys  |  Issue: October | November 2019

For generations, mental health has been stigmatized and treated as something that must never be talked about. Despite this custom, Millenials and Gen Z are now being more open about their mental health. In an effort to understand how anxiety affects youth, I conducted a survey in which individuals shared their experiences with anxiety. Upon reviewing results, I found that the main triggers for the individuals who responded were family, school, romantic relationships, and the political climate.

In the survey, 73% of those who identified as having anxiety said they were not in therapy. While it might be more acceptable to talk about mental health issues today, therapy is not always accessible. For those who do have therapy available to them, it still may not be enough or they might not have the desire to fully disclose their issues.

The political climate seems to have people of all ages on edge. However, it has a very unique effect on the youth. Many have grown up insecure about their families’ future due to immigration status, financial status, or even because of the color of their skin. These are all worries that many individuals have grown up with, but the Trump administration has only intensified those feelings of uncertainty.

While it might be difficult to open up to a therapist, younger generations are definitely more open to talk about mental health with each other. In fact, they are eager to do so. A popular coping mechanism among respondents was opening up to a friend about their anxiety, especially during an attack. The majority of respondents stated their attacks last less than an hour but it is very possible for an anxiety attack to last several days.

During an attack individuals reported having difficulty breathing, hypersensitivity, paranoia, shaking, and sweating. Some respondents stated talking to a friend or focusing on controlling their breathing and hands was their way of coping. Anxiety attacks vary between individuals but a common thing all respondents shared was the desire to have more open communication about their anxiety with loved ones.

Social media has created a safe haven for younger generations to talk amongst friends about their mental health. However, older generations do not use social media the way Millenials and Gen Z do. Youth may be more open to sharing their experiences online but maybe not with their loved ones face to face, especially young people of color.

One respondent said, “Coming from a Latinx background, I wish it would become normal to realize depression/anxiety isn’t the same as being lazy and that it is a real thing.” Another respondent said, “My parents do not prioritize mental health and consider anyone who does as trying to be white.”

Among all the responses, a common answer was the desire for people to realize that anxiety is not something that you can just “get over.” In order for this to happen, there has to be more open communication between younger and older generations about mental health. While younger generations may be more open about disclosing their experiences, this does not mean the stigma surrounding mental health issues has disappeared. Transparency is only the beginning.

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