For the past few years, self-diagnosing mental health has been a trend in the circle of Gen Z (gen. born between 1997–2015), alongside, the amount of Instagram accounts that are aimed to share awareness about mental health arises, and it’s not a secret to us anymore that the people behind them are mostly Gen Z.
I write this article because I am a part of Gen Z and I’ve experienced some unpleasant mental conditions that I think to the point it needs to be taken care of by the professional (of course based on my self-diagnosis of course, lol). I want to dig more about this issue; what makes it so interesting, how come this has become a trend, and what can possibly help us minimize the negative impact of it.
Reminder: Do not self-diagnose. Do be aware of what you are feeling and if your mental condition seems to be disturbing your life, seek for professional help.
Looking at the social phenomenon that reaches a condition where Dr. Elena Mikalsen, head of the Psychology Section at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio in Texas said “It’s an epidemic. It’s a mental health emergency,” referring to Gen Z, it is no surprise that the generation is crowned with the title “The most depressed generation”, replacing Millennials that were once on the throne in the early 2010s.
According to American Psychological Association, 91% of Gen Z adults have experienced at least one emotional or physical symptoms because of stress, such as depression and lack of motivation and energy. To get a wider view of this, I tried to look for a global survey and a whitepaper from Deloitte says 48% of Gen Z feel anxious or stressed most of the time, surpassing the number of Millennials which stopped at 44%. That being said, that fact alone should have explained why Gen Z have such intense focus regarding mental health, but looking at the Millennials number that only has a 4% gap, which is a fairly small number, what makes Gen Z so different?
The answer could be the internet, including social media. The graph on the side shows that the biggest source of pressure is to get good grades, meanwhile, I’m sure you have seen a lot of Gen Zers complain about how the education system works and how it’s not helping them learn. The internet, however, takes part in making them realize that things are wrong. Through the internet, be it articles or e-journals, or simply a discussion forum (like Reddit, omg, I love the Start-up K-drama discussion on Reddit), they get to know what they actually need and what will really work for them — in general, not just about grades. From there, they demand change.
And the easiest way to create change is to optimize the use of social media. It is somewhat free, easy to access, and you can create something in just one click. Though we know social media has countless negative impacts on Gen Z’s mental health, that is exactly the reason why we can see “get a life! drink water! get enough sleep! stop scrolling on social media! touch some grass and see your friends! take good care of yourself!” kind of tweet on Twitter. Social media is the platform that has the most audience on the internet, based on the reports from we are social x Hootsuite, people even read news from social media instead of actual news outlets (which is why there are so many misunderstandings about what’s happening. Sigh. Put some effort.).
Gen Z are found to be the generation that spend the most screen time on social media, spending average 2 hours 55 minutes per day. Gen Z is also the first group of generation that has always been with the internet since they were born. Their voice is definitely easier to be heard through social media.
Personally, I started to develop my mental health by learning philosophy, adults around me would say “You’re only 16? How do you learn philosophy and for what?” If you think I learned it from Twitter, you’re not wrong. Twitter is where I found Amor Fati, the philosophy that changed my life. Now, compared to 15 years ago, still in the 2000s, do you think there are teens around my age that learn philosophy outside of school? Well, maybe, yes, but you can rarely find them.
15 years ago, mental health was also a big taboo. It is quite hard to find accessible scientific literacy covering the topic. Even if there are books about it, mental health was not a trend and I’m not sure people would spend money on something that is so stigmatized, unlike now, where we can simply learn from TED-Ed Youtube videos (i love you, TED-Ed) that only requires internet data and have relatively short duration, but one video can sum up the general things we need to know.
The report above might also be why online activism is very persistent among Gen Z. Teenagers nowadays are so consumed by social media. On one hand, it’s a good thing because educational content creators could gain a numerous amount of audiences and the consumer can easily find lots of organizations or movements they’re interested in. On the other hand, the addiction could lead to things that are unwanted.
But, so far, that is exactly the point of online activism. It’s a cycle, the two things just keep circulating. The more people realize how destructive or problematic something can be, the more people would work on how to fix it and make it better. We just need to make sure it stays balanced.
It is clear that the access and facilities that are available in this era have been helping the younger generation to learn more, get exposed and be aware of literally everything, not only mental health. But, as I write this and think about it; social media, the internet or any other facility is only an X factor to this issue. Curiosity, the will to learn and being critical is what’s most important. And I’m happy Gen Z grew up with that.