Generation Z is usually defined as the cohort of individuals born between the years 1997 and 2012. One of the defining characteristics of Gen Z is their digital literacy. Members of Generation Z were born after the invention and proliferation of the internet, and as a result, their entire lives have been marinated in unfathomable amounts of digital information.
If you’re the parent or loved one of a person who belongs to Generation Z, you might have some questions about their mental health concerns. Zoomers, as they are often called, report more mental health concerns than any previous generation.
Is Gen Z different from other generations? What mental health problems do they face? With the shutdown of schools due to a global pandemic, the rise of social media, climate change, and the stress of the current political climate, it’s no wonder Generation Z’s mental health is on the decline. In this article, we’ll explore some of the unique mental health concerns of Generation Z and offer some tips on how you can support the Zoomers in your life.
Who Is Gen Z?
According to the Pew Research Center, the Gen Z population consists of teens and young adults born after 1997. This generation is the most racially and ethnically diverse of any generation in the U.S., and they are also the most likely to be digital natives. They are often described as being more civic-minded, tolerant, and open-minded than previous generations.
The good news is that this generation knows how important it is to report mental health concerns. Unfortunately, they are also prone to mental health issues other generations may not face. Youth mental health is at an all-time low, and the demand for mental health professionals has never been higher.
Poor Mental Health Overall
A staggering 90% of Gen Z young adults reported feeling some sort of psychological and physiological stress in the past year, according to a new study by The American Psychological Association. This is the highest level of stress reported by any generation in the APA’s history.
The study also found that Gen Z is more likely than older adults to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety. They are also more likely than any other generation to self-harm.
There are a number of reasons why Gen Z is struggling with mental health issues at such high rates. Here are some of the most common factors:
Social Media and Anxiety
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns among Gen Z. According to the National Institutes of Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, impacting an estimated 31.9% of adolescents.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to anxiety, including stress from school or family life, social media usage, and exposure to traumatic events. Of all these reasons, perhaps one of the most surprising (to some parents) is the effect of social media on teens. Researchers have found that social media might lead to:
While you might, as a parent, use your phone throughout the day, consider your child’s relationship to their phone and social media. It’s important to have open conversations about the impact of social media on their mental health and encourage them to take breaks from time to time. More often than not, your child is spending hours on social media scrolling through perfectly curated images and lives showing a distorted view of reality, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy or loneliness.
Stress From School
School can be a major source of stress for Gen Z. Unfortunately, your child might need help from a mental health professional if they’re now struggling with returning to school after the pandemic. Studies found that children who stayed home due to the pandemic suffered from learning loss.
Learning loss is a real concern for Gen Z, as they have already faced so much disruption in their schooling. In addition to the stress of returning to school, they might also be dealing with:
- The pressure to succeed
- Social media comparisons
- Unrealistic academic expectations
All of these factors can lead to mounting school pressure. As a parent, remind your child that their worth is not defined by their grades or test scores. It’s also important to be there for them if they’re struggling to adjust to a new school schedule or learning environment.
There are a number of reasons why depression rates are on the rise among Gen Z. The same study that measured suicide rates also found that youth are still likely to suffer from housing instability, food insecurity, poverty, and other serious social issues.
Even if your child is not struggling with these issues, they might still be facing others that lead to depression. For example, social media can have a negative impact on mental health, as it can lead to feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, and isolation.
If you suspect that your child is struggling with depression, it’s important to seek professional help. Depression is a serious mental illness that can have devastating consequences if left untreated. Symptoms of depression include:
- Loss of interest in activities
- Changes in appetite
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Sadness or emptiness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Thoughts of death or harming oneself
Fortunately, with so many parents and children aware of the youth mental health crisis, Gen Z’ers might be easier to convince when it comes time to seek mental health services. Still, not all parents are as open to the idea of therapy or medication. If your child is struggling with thoughts of suicide and severe depression, look for mental health providers in your area that can help.
Agoraphobia is another mental health condition that has been on the rise in recent years. This condition is characterized by a fear of situations that might cause panic, such as being in a crowd or being away from home.
Sadly, one of the most dangerous and difficult fears for Gen Z to deal with is the possibility of school shootings or mass shootings. Unlike baby boomers, who grew up during a time of relative peace inside classrooms, Gen Z have had to face the reality that mass shootings can happen at any time and any place.
Fear of the outside world can be hard leading to many problems including anxiety and depression. If your child is afraid of going to school or leaving the house, it’s important to seek professional help. Agoraphobia is a serious condition that can severely impact your child’s quality of life.
While this phobia might seem relatively harmless, it can actually lead to some serious consequences. For example, someone with agoraphobia might avoid leaving their home, which can lead to social isolation and depression.
If you think your child might be suffering from agoraphobia, it’s important to seek professional help. Therapy can be extremely helpful for treating this condition. Exposure therapy, in particular, can help your child slowly confront their fears and learn to cope with them in a healthy way.
Political Climate and Tension
Research shows that Gen Z is more likely to engage in social activism.
With that being said, the current political climate has also caused a great deal of stress and anxiety for Gen Z. The 2016 presidential election was a major source of stress for many young people, as it led to feelings of uncertainty and unease about the future. The reversal of women’s rights and the rise of antisemitism and other forms of prejudice against immigrant and migrant families have made many young people feel hopeless and powerless in their society.
The current state of politics has also put a strain on relationships between family members and friends. This is especially true for Zoomers who come from families with different political views.
If you think your child is struggling to cope with the current political climate, it’s important to talk to them about their feelings. Help them understand that it’s okay to feel anxious or stressed about the current situation.
Let them know that you’re there for them and that you support them. Encourage them to express their feelings in a healthy way, such as through journaling or talking to a trusted friend or family member.
You might also consider seeking professional help if your child is struggling to cope with their anxiety. A therapist can help your child learn healthy coping mechanisms and work through their feelings in a safe and supportive environment.
Get Help For Gen Z Mental Health Today
The current state of the world can be extremely overwhelming for Zoomers. With social media, they are constantly bombarded with news stories and images that can trigger anxiety and stress. It’s important to talk to your children about how they’re feeling and offer support when needed. If you think your child is struggling to find their way in the world, you’re not alone. At Clear Recovery Center’s Teen Program, our mission is to provide the guidance, support, and treatment necessary to help your child find their way to a happy and healthy future.
If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our experienced professionals today. We can help you assess the situation and determine if treatment is necessary for your child’s mental health conditions. Our team specializes in working with teens and young adults, so we understand the unique challenges that Generation Z faces. We offer a variety of treatment options that can be tailored to meet your child’s individual needs. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your family heal.