The attitude and overall health of the millennial generation is being closely looked at as they are growing into young adults entering adulthood and the impact they will have on the world. The generation born between 1980 and 2000, known as Millennials, have been described as being open to change, confident, and optimistic despite the widespread fears about financial security as a result of the economic recession that began in 2008. Aside from being referred to as the multi-tasking generation, due to iPhones being seen as an extra appendage, young adults are embracing self-expression through social media as a way to connect to others in their age group.
In 2006, a book published by psychologist Jean Twenge, titled Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable Than Ever Before, is looking at how depression and anxiety are becoming rites of passage in adolescence and young adulthood that were previously issues reserved for middle aged adults. Critics of the millennial generation believe that there is a sense of self-entitlement among many young adults, which has also earned the less flattering title of “Generation Me”. There is the belief that young adults today are ill-equipped and aren’t really prepared to deal with challenges in life such as an uncertain employment future in a recovering economy and student loans. If that is true, than the direst of challenges is the issue of mental health. Millennials are currently facing high rates of suicide and substance use. Mental health has never been more important that it is today in a world where personal connection offline is becoming less conventional. Is it possible that young adults of the millennial generation are experiencing depression and anxiety more than past generations of young people, and if so, what can be done?
From the year 1999 through 2004, it was estimated that nearly nine percent of 20 to 29 year-olds reported experiencing major depression, generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder in the previous year. Young Millennial women are twice as likely to report symptoms of mental health issues as are young men. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15-24. College is often thought of as a time for personal growth by being exposed to new ideas and assuming a greater amount of independence and responsibility as young people assume their role as adults. Research is showing that the emotional health of first year college students has declined to the lowest level in recent years. College faculty are reporting that there is a fear of failure among college students along with the fear of taking risks. For many millennials, failure is seen as both catastrophic and unacceptable. One study found that among children and teens with diagnosed mental health problems such as major depression and generalized anxiety, only about 10 percent were reported as having received any form of therapy or treatment. Given that most diagnosable mental health disorders begin by the age of 14, treatment of emotional issues is critical and yet many are not seeking treatment, and instead may be sharing their anxieties on social media. For some it may seem easier to share something about themselves online than it is in person with someone they know or a professional. While there are no statistics or data to show how many millennials are seeking help online instead of working through their issues with a therapist, it is helpful that they are getting more comfortable talking about it and reducing the stigma about being depressed or anxious.
Young adults of the millennial generation have contributed to the development of social media and amazing innovative tools at the ready of their fingertips and finger swipes. Despite the advances being made and more to come, the emotional health of many young adults finding their place in the world remains something that an app on an iPhone cannot quickly fix. It is important for the current generation to be supported by their elders in learning that issues such as depression and anxiety are something that cannot be ignored or set aside, but instead are something that needs to be tended to and addressed with the support of family, friends, and by talking with a therapist to learn what is the root cause of the issues.
“People evolve and it’s important to not stop evolving just because you’ve reached ‘adulthood.” ~ J. K. Simmons