There is extensive research suggesting that members from Generation Z (Gen Z) are growing up in an age of increased stress, anxiety and depression. Members of Gen Z are individuals who are born between 1995 and 2010. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a mere 45% of Gen Z report that their mental health is very good or excellent. This is particularly concerning, especially when all other generations (e.g., Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers) fare significantly better.
So, what is the main cause of this and what are some practical strategies we can do about it?
Impact of Social Media and The “Tech Age”
Many would argue that the impact of social media and the influence of the “tech age” is the main detriment for poor mental health. Gen Z have grown up in an age of phones, high-speed internet, and the creation of various social media platforms. Consuming too much social media has shown to exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, it could be argued the real pressure comes from unrealistic expectations and creating the ideal “persona” online. Some members of Gen Z are constantly striving to construct an idealistic version of themselves online. Celebrities and influencers constantly reinforce the “perfect” life without any shortcomings. Comparing themselves to these unrealistic expectations creates issues with self-identity, which perpetuates poor mental health.
Impact of COVID-19
Another factor impacting mental health is the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid-19 has had a profound impact on all generations. However, some would argue that Gen Z have been hit the heaviest. Tasked with finishing schooling during a pandemic, as well as changes in learning environments (e.g., studying online) has placed an enormous amount of pressure on them to achieve. Furthermore, some students find it difficult to retain information when learning online and would rather a more interactive and face-to-face environment. As a result, some students are not achieving the grades they need to get into university or further study. In addition to this, those who have finished studying are now tasked with finding a job during the pandemic. Limited job opportunities and entering a volatile job market during the pandemic means that a lot of new graduates remain unemployed. This increases the risk of developing mental health problems, as those affected may feel frustrated, angry or that they have not been given a fair opportunity.
So, what can we do about it? Well, there are a few things…
- First, it is important to open up to someone close to you when you are struggling. This may be a teacher, parent, or good friend who can support you to seek-out the help and support you need.
- Secondly, it is important to identify simple self-care strategies. Often, when we feel low or anxious, we avoid activities that we once found pleasure in. Forcing yourself to go for that walk, meditate, or journal is very important. Think about these things as an obligation for your own mental health and well-being.
- Thirdly, consult with a mental health specialist. It is important that if you are feeling anxious or depressed that you seek support as soon as possible. Having someone explore your situation from an objective point of view as well as guide you through evidence-based strategies is very important.
If you are dealing with mental health issues, below are several crisis lines located in Australia.
- Beyond Blue aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. Call 1300 224 636, 24 hours/7 days a week, chat online or email.
- eheadspace provides free online and telephone support and counselling to young people 12 – 25 and their families and friends. Call 1800 650 890, 9am – 1am AEST / 7 days a week, chat online or email.
- Lifeline provides 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14, text on 0477 13 11 14 (12pm to midnight AEST) or chat online.
- MensLine Australia is a professional telephone and online counselling service offering support to Australian men. Call 1300 789 978, 24 hours/7 days a week, chat online or organise a video chat.