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Gen Z is considered to be the most depressed generation. Unlike their parents, they are open to talking about their mental health struggles. Here’s why. 

Gen Z is and will always be different from any other generation who has come before us. A major way we are different from Gen Xers or Baby Boomers is that we are not afraid to advocate for ourselves and open up about the mental health challenges we face. 

But the question is why? 

Gen Z is considered to be the most depressed generation. 91% of Gen Z reported experiencing psychological symptoms due to stress. According to a study by Western Governors University in 2019, only 45% of Gen Z believe their mental health is good, which is 11% lower than the millennial generation.  The Pew Research Center found that 70% of teens believe that depression and anxiety are significant problems amongst their peers. 

But everyone must ask themselves, why is Gen Z so depressed? Why does Gen Z statistically show to have more mental problems than any other generation? 

Let’s look at the facts. 

Anyone born between the years 1997 and 2012 is considered to be Gen Z. Look at everything that has happened since 1997, that had never happened before for previous generations. 

1. Hundreds of mass shooting, many being in schools or colleges

2. 9/11, along with numerous other terrorist attacks 

3. Social media was created, and basically took over our world

4. The climate crisis became a huge problem, threatening the future of the world 

5. Political unrest, the 2020 election as a prime example

6. The Coronavirus Global Pandemic 

Dealing and coping with all of these factors while trying to grow up cannot be easy on anyone. It doesn’t take a doctor to figure that any of these events on the list are enough to trigger anxiety, stress, and depression in a teen or young adult while navigating through life. 

Here’s a breakdown of why.

Social Media

Many will argue that social media places the heaviest toll on Gen Z’s mental health. The American Association of Pediatrics warns that too much social media use leads to depression and anxiety. Consuming too much social media can result in isolation and depression. But the pressure is really on when it comes to the persona you have to maintain online. 

No doubt that generations before us were self-conscious and had insecurities about their bodies, but they never had to deal with it and with social media at the same time. 

cyber bullying ( Photo credit: Adobe Stock)

Every day teens and young adults get on social media to see celebrities and even their peers that appear to have perfect bodies, perfect skin and hair, and this perfect life. Oftentimes after seeing certain norms online, the pressure for Gen Z is on to look perfect and appear to have a perfect life as well, which can be damaging. 

Around 45% of Gen Z say that social media makes them believe they are being judged, while 38% say social media makes them feel bad about themselves. 

Not only is Gen Z faced with self-identity issues online, but we face cyberbullying. Social media can be very hateful and negative, resulting in teens and young adults facing more mental health and self-image issues. 

Covid-19 Pandemic 

The toll the pandemic has placed on Gen Z is horrific. According to a study by the Center for Disease Control, one in four 18 to 24-year-olds said that they have thought about self-harm during the pandemic, and more than half reported at least one negative mental health symptom. 

Gen Z’s best years of our lives basically came to a halt. Schools shut down, colleges sent everyone home, graduations were stopped, big life events were canceled, and we were just supposed to “get over it.” 

School life and college life basically completely shifted to online learning, ultimately making it hard for teens and college students to retain information without that classroom setting.

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Not only was Gen Z’s social life put to a halt, but economic factors came into play as well. Many young adults lost jobs, had job offers, post-graduation, taken from them, and had internships canceled, leaving many struggling and unemployed at such a young age. Younger teens of Gen Z had to watch families struggle to provide resources such as food, and school supplies. 

Most importantly Gen Z had to deal with death. Many lost parents, grandparents, other family members, and friends during the pandemic and had to deal with the grief of that loss. 

Political/World Issues 

Every time you turn on the news, nine times out of ten it’s not something positive. You can bet that Gen Z is watching the news, which takes a toll on us. Political and world issues have always been a discussion for previous generations, but it’s safe to say no one ever grew up with a President like us. The 2020 election was quite the roller coaster for us. Watching all of the political turmoil play out in 2020 was enough to cause anyone stress. 

Gun control activists ( Photo: Adobe Stock)

When it comes to other major world issues such as climate change, Gen Z is more concerned than any other generation. In a 2018 study by the American Psychological Association, 58% of Gen Z were reported to have stress about news discussing climate change and global warming. Where only 51% of previous generations said it caused them stress. This difference of stress levels could be that Gen Z knows the poor environmental actions made by past generations and the future of this world is something we will have to live and deal with. 

Gun Violence

You would think that as Covid restrictions are being let up, more Americans are getting vaccinated, and we slowly inch back to normalcy, Gen Z would be less stressed? However, this probably won’t be the case. With more stores, businesses, schools, and colleges opening back up, it gives more opportunities for mass shootings to occur. 

So far in 2021, we have had 232 mass shootings, including the San Jose shooting on Wednesday, and it’s only May. 75% of Gen Z said that mass shootings are a significant contributor to their stress. Only 58% of members from Gen X and the Baby Boomers reported finding mass shootings as a source of stress. 

Race and Socioeconomic Status

Depending on one’s environment in how they grow up and the social class their family is in, could also be another contributing factor to a Gen Z’s mental health problems. 68% of Gen Zers have stated their financial stress has increased due to recent events in the past year. In the APA study, it was reported that 81% of Gen Z adults attribute money to being a common stressor. 

Race can also be a whole other issue, on top of all of these other factors. People of color, specifically black people are under an immense amount of stress when it comes to our skin color and the many challenges racism presents. 

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, I can attest that my fear and anxiety around police officers have increased. Every time I drive past a cop, my body immediately tenses up and I feel sick to my stomach, despite knowing I did nothing wrong. 

All of these issues on top of challenging and trying to meet normal societal expectations are enough to cause damage to one’s mental health. 

But what has changed? Why is Gen Z so open to talking about mental health compared to anyone else? 

Gen Z is reported to be more likely to report mental health concerns. 27% of Gen Z were found to report if their mental health was poor, while 37% of Gen Z reported having received treatment or gone to therapy amid those mental health concerns.

Only 26% of Gen Xers and 22% of Baby Boomers were reported to get help following mental health problems. But why is this the case?  

For one, there is a huge increase in psychological and mental health problems in Gen Z, therefore they are more likely to need therapy. With more teens and young adults having issues and going to therapy, they are more likely to open up to their peers about mental health. 

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There is also an increased awareness of mental health. The more Gen Z is exposed to therapy, the more aware and conscious we become. Previous generations had to deal with the stigma behind admitting a mental health problem or receiving help. But because of recent stances reducing the stigma behind mental health problems and going to therapy, Gen Z does not face this problem of being ruthlessly judged.

Getting rid of the stigma could be thanks to Gen Z for willingly talking about mental health concerns openly on popular social media sites such as on TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter. Or it could be thanks to many celebrities and public figures such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, President Obama, Lizzo, Selena Gomez, Prince Harry, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, and so many more opening up about their struggles and campaigning for mental health, as well.  

Because Gen Z has gone through all of these traumatic events together at such a young age, we are more open to discussing their feelings about coping with these events with each other, since previous generations cannot relate. 

Gen Z knows that mental health is not a constraint on our lives. We know that there are resources out there that will help us live happy life. And we use those resources to the best of our ability for ourselves, and to help other people struggling. 

Online harassment using social media to threatened people ( Photo credit: Adobe Stock)

7 actions you can take to support mental health and remove the stigma 

—Open up to someone close to you if you feel you are struggling with a topic you have difficult feelings about.

—Identify simple self-care activities that work for you, like exercising, meditating, or journaling.

—Schedule an appointment to talk to a doctor about your mental health

—Let people in your life know you’re a safe person to talk to about mental health, and actively listen and engage when someone comes to you for help.

—Bring together people in your life who have shared interests.

—Share crisis resources with the people, such as on social media, to reinforce that people are never alone and that help is always available

—Advocate for mental health policies that ensure everyone in your community has access to mental health care, suicide prevention training, and funding for local crisis resources.

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Jaala Brown is Gen Z Voice at The Pavlovic Today.

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