Generation Z includes everyone born from about 1995 to 2015, and it’s the first generation to barely, if at all, remember a time without smartphones, the internet, social media, and 9/11. Gen Z is also known for having more anxiety and depression than any other generation. “Only 45% of Generation Z individuals say their mental health is good, or very good. That’s 11% less than the next closest generation. A whopping 91% of Gen Z said they experienced a physical or emotional symptom due to stress and mental illness in the past year” (Stress, Mental Health, and Generation Z). For previous generations, mental health may not have been a major issue in high school, so why is this new generation so different?
“I got sick during my sophomore year, and I never realized that it was a mental illness until my doctor intervened. I’d been given so little information on it, and I’d come to stereotype people with my illness so much that I would have never guessed that I struggled with what I did,” - anonymous student.
Some claim that the mental health crisis facing Gen Z isn’t real, that Gen Z is just “softer” than other generations or seeks attention more than other generations. Others say that the explanation lies in Gen Z’s willingness to seek help. While it’s true that Gen Z is more likely than other generations to seek help for mental health, that does not explain behaviors like the rise of suicides and behaviors related to depression that can only be explained by an actual increase in poor mental health (Twenge).
“When you go to someone who is supposed to be a person who cares and they shut you down, tell you that you’re just overreacting and you’ll get over it, it makes life just that much worse,”- anonymous student.
Gen Z has the ability to constantly be connected to information from around the world, and sadly much of this information is troubling. Gun violence, school shootings, climate change, sexual harassment, and immigration are some of the issues that 75% of teens say are sources of stress which lead to symptoms such as depression or lack of motivation in 90% of teens (Bethune).
Not only is technology a way to find out about world events, but a way to stay in contact with friends and keep updated. While this may seem positive, overuse of social media leads many teens down a path of constant self comparison that can turn into poor mental health. Social media is often labeled as the biggest culprit in the rise of the mental health crisis, and for good reason. Social media, however, is also a contributor to much good. Over half of Gen Zers say that social media is a source of support when in distress (LMSU).
In addition, technology, friends, and school work are often chosen over sleep, a lack of which can lay the groundwork for depression and anxiety (Harvard Health Publishing). Feeling the pressures to succeed academically, socially, and extracurricularly, students are sacrificing their health. A lack of sleep can cause an increased risk of injuries, illness, substance abuse, and mental illness. The body needs sleep, and without it Gen Zers can not function at peak capacity (Garey).
“My experience with mental illness began my freshman year and I’ve been dealing with it ever since. I attempted to ignore my feelings, but the more I avoided help, the worse my mental health declined. My sophomore year it became so overwhelming I had to reach out and get help,” - anonymous student.
The causes of this crisis in the rise of poor mental health can be hard to pinpoint. Genetically, environmentally, and physiologically every person is different and so every mental issue is different, but the fact that Gen Z is hugely affected by stress, anxiety, and depression can not be ignored. Luckily, advances in medicine and awareness have made help better, more easily accessible, and less taboo. If you are struggling, I encourage you to seek help. If you are a parent or teacher that is reading this, I encourage you to show kindness and openness so you can be the person that a teen can confide in. Gen Z is living in the world given them, a world greatly different from the one that past generations grew up in, and a world that we as Adventists know will continue to become more broken than ever before.
Ashley Herber, Student Editor
Campion’s journalism class is doing a research series on mental health to bring education and awareness to the impact of mental health issues on their generation. Stayed tuned to read a new article on the topic each week over the next month. We are very grateful to the staff and students who are bravely sharing their experiences. Mental health issues such as discouragement, anxiety, and depression impact everyone in one way or another. Campion Academy’s nurse is a mental health professional and encourages students to seek assistance when needed. The chaplain's office is another source of help for students.
“Stress, Mental Health, and Generation Z.” Western Governors University, Western Governors University, 13 Aug. 2019, https://www.wgu.edu/blog/stress-mental-health-generation-z1906.html.
Bethune, Sophie. “Gen Z More Likely to Report Mental Health Concerns.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, Jan. 2019, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/01/gen-z.
Garey, Juliann, et al. “Teens and Sleep: What Happens When Teenagers Don't Get Enough?” Child Mind Institute, childmind.org/article/happens-teenagers-dont-get-enough-sleep/.
Harvard Health Publishing. “Sleep and Mental Health.” Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health.
Twenge, Jean. “The Mental Health Crisis among America's Youth Is Real – and Staggering.” The Conversation, 8 July 2019, http://theconversation.com/the-mental-health-crisis-among-americas-youth-is-real-and-staggering-113239.
LMSW, Michael Friedman. “Is the State of the World Causing More Mental Illness?” Medical News and Free CME Online, MedpageToday, 25 Mar. 2019, https://www.medpagetoday.com/psychiatry/generalpsychiat