A recent report says that members of Generation Z are the most likely of all generations to report poor mental health.
Scott Bea, PsyD, of Cleveland Clinic believes that what stresses today’s young people could be a product of what their parents experienced while they were very young.
“This is a group whose parents were experiencing 9/11 when they were young – six years of age or younger – and our world really changed and we became more sensitive to threat,” he said. “During this time, the news media exploded as more and more people wanted news and we started engaging in more safety behaviors.”
Dr. Bea said because of the inescapable presence of threats in today’s society – from what we see on TV – to the safety drills our children practice in school, we’ve developed a generation that has been strongly protected.
He said hearing about every event in the news can actually make us over-estimate our risk.
And even when it comes to the little stuff – such as conflicts with friends or at school – Dr. Bea said when parents fight too many battles for their kids it doesn’t allow their children to develop the coping skills they need to deal with adversity.
He said just like our bodies develop a biological immunity through exposure to threats, our psychological system can also develop immunity through exposure.
“If we’re not allowing young folks to solve problems, to develop active coping strategies; we’re robbing them of those opportunities,” said Dr. Bea. “And while we’re doing that, in a benevolent way and for a good cause, we may be inadvertently handicapping them at the same time.”
On the other hand, Dr. Bea said the report also shows that while Generation Z might be more likely to report poor mental health, they are also more likely than older generations to be aware of their mental health and seek out help when necessary.
“We know more about mental health now – that it’s a biological matter,” said Dr. Bea. “This knowledge takes away the morality of it. Instead of asking, ‘did I do something wrong?’ or a parent wondering, ‘did I parent wrong?’ we now know a lot of this is biological, which is making it safer for people to seek help. We also have better information on where to get help and that help is effective.”