13 Reasons Why, a web series adapted from a book of the same name, highlights the issue of suicide. Another web series that has grabbed a large number of eyeballs, Euphoria, captures teenage high schoolers dealing with a life that involves a struggle with self-concept, growing up, drugs and mental health issues. Often on social media, numerous young adults can be seen being aware and vocal about mental health issues. This centrality of mental health in the discourse of gen-z has led many to term it as a fad. However, that may not be the case.
Placing mental health issues in the present
Mental health as a concept worth caring for has gained wide acceptance very recently, and still, areas remain where it is yet to make forays. Historically, treatments of mental disorders have existed in the form of absurdities led by misunderstanding. A generation or two ago, the same misunderstanding persisted. Issues concerning the mind were straightaway delegated to the category of weakness in one’s personality. Hardships that troubled were meant to be gotten over and prided about, irrespective of the trauma they left behind. A similar situation can still be observed in a plethora of households, sometimes even in our own. It is because of this trend that the awareness displayed by gen-Z leads to many raised eyebrows. It has also led to accusations that mental health disorders have been turned into a trend that everyone is adopting to cover the lack of any individual identity. This shows what the harmful characterization of mental health issues used to look like.
Incoming changes in the world and conversations on mental health
The zoomer generation is breaking a harmful trend by putting the spotlight on things that matter immensely - our mental well-being. Whole generations of people suffered in silence because of societal norms that did not acknowledge mental health. The present discourse brings a welcome and much-needed refresher through the recognition it brings. The mere recognition of one’s struggles gives a feeling of relaxation, that the mess inside was not just made up. It was real, and real problems can have real solutions. This idea alone brings immense calm.
What we also need to consider here are the circumstances that are unique to Gen-Z. Gen-Z is usually taken to be the generation born between the late 1990s and early 2010s. This makes it the first generation that has been born after the tech revolution fueled by the internet. Due to this, it is also the generation that has experienced and been impacted by the consequent information overload, digital addictions, and changes in patterns of socialization. This creates issues that have not existed before. It also creates platforms that have not been known previously. This generation also happens to be the one that is putting the initial steps towards adulthood with a global pandemic raging in the background. Coupled with an economic canvas with pictures of crony capitalism painted on it, financial insecurities, and expectations regarding education, career and standard of living in a highly competitive world add to the woes. Alongside, a decline in healthy families and marriages, widespread humanitarian crises ranging from war to terrorism also co-exist. Expectations from parents and society leading the way throughout turn out unhelpful. A generation walking on the edge with anxiety and detachment from systems that burden it is formed. Gen Zers report high rates of anxiety, depression, and distress. This generation does the task of figuring out the cause, consequence and probable solution - and is resented for it.
Why is Gen Z the one to take the issue head-on?
This greater acceptance of mental health might be due to several reasons. Firstly, there is a general openness about issues as it is something that society has been collectively working on for a long time. The efforts are paying off. Secondly, due to this awareness, the stigma around having a mental health disorder and seeking treatment for it has been reduced. More and more people are opening up to the idea of therapy. Social media has also provided support in times when humans have not. Thirdly, the globalization of socialization has helped. In certain societies, the acceptance was far below others. The Internet enabled communication all across the world and paved the way for faster change. Influences of other societies added to it. This normalization of conversations dealing with mental health lets Gen Z move forward rather than being stuck with an issue acting as a roadblock. The awareness and acceptance to recognize and solve problems is the force that keeps Gen Z going ahead further than the previous generations did.