My friend’s professor once told her that “the only rational response to the modern world is mental illness.” While this statement is comical, he made a decent point. Except for The Greatest Generation, Gen Z has probably lived through more major historical events in their first 20 years of life than any other. Every generation experiences their share of hardship, but I would argue that because Gen Z has grown up as technological natives, the velocity and repetition with which we experience major historical events makes them more impactful to the individual. To name a few such events—9/11, the war on terrorism, the economic crash of 2008, the invention of social media and popularization of the internet, the epidemic of mass shootings, the Me Too movement, COVID-19, the BLM movement, and the killing of George Floyd, the Capitol Insurrection, the war on Ukraine, the progression of climate change, and much more. And that’s just since 1997.
Conversations about mental health are now part of casual, modern rhetoric. However, it is understandable that older generations might be prone to seeing Gen Z as self-absorbed for talking about the things their own generation was taught to simply “power through.” The problem is, mental health issues are not things you can just “power through.”
Here are a few common, if archaic, misconceptions about mental health issues:
- If you have low energy, are struggling to get out of bed, can’t sleep or are sleeping too much, lost your appetite, etc., you are not depressed; you just need an attitude adjustment.
- People with strong support networks do not need to go to therapy.
- Being unable to deal with hardship alone is a sign of failure.
- Mental health issues can be managed through willpower.
Understanding these misconceptions is vital for intergenerational communication. It is common for members of Gen Z to feel unseen or dismissed by their parents. Bridging the generation gap must start with open communication. So, here are seven concepts.
- Setting boundaries and simply saying “no” develops self-assurance and invites others’ respect.
- Failing is an inevitable part of life and does not mean you are a failure. The most important thing is that you try again.
- Cultivating a daily routine is essential because it is something to fall back on during times of stress.
- Exercising for mental health reasons rather than for cosmetic reasons is crucial.
- When you experience something for the first time, the feelings it invokes can be alarming. But no feeling is permanent.
- Helping a friend struggling with mental illness can take many forms. Listening to them without judgment, encouraging them to seek help, and frequently checking in on them is an excellent place to start.
- It is okay to ask for help from parents, friends, and mental health professionals.
It is normal to struggle with mental health. In today’s world, you could even say it is inevitable. Because of the cultural shift toward connectivity and open communication, Gen Z has grown up with a high level of exposure to these ideas. And as the rhetoric around this topic progresses, bridging the generation gap will be critical. Let’s do this together.