Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Youth, Stress and Reality
Came across an interesting article recently about the high levels of stress and mental health issues youth are facing. The article follows a study that dates back to 1938 and follows trends of mental health of youth throughout the years. Trends show a significant increase in youth with depression and hypomania, amongst other illnesses.
Although people are still researching and speculating about WHY so many youth are feeling so bad that they have to take medication to enjoy a blessed living day, even as they are young and healthy, there seem to be some clear indicators of what could drive a young person to become so bewildered.
Working with youth, and being a youth yet still myself, I see a clear trend of multiple layers of unrealistic pressures put on youth. This especially becomes real as youth near graduation and are considering their post high school options.
The article quotes it very well:
"The unrealistic feelings that are ingrained in us from a young age — that we need to have massive amounts of money to be considered a success — not only lead us to a higher likelihood of feeling inadequate, anxious or depressed, but also make us think that the only value in getting an education is to make a lot of money, which is the wrong way to look at it," says Slater, an international studies major who plans to go to graduate school overseas.
I think these pressures and measures of "success" impress very confusing values on youth. It is impossible for EVERYONE to go to college and be guaranteed a high paying job. Does chasing money make people happier? From what I've heard, there doesn't seem to ever be enough money once you're on that train.
So what is success then? Why do people go to college and why should we encourage youth to go to college?
I have some clear thoughts based on my personal experience, but what are schools, parents, and the society at large encouraging youth to do? What values do we pass down?
Values will always be passed down, whether they are clear or muddy. The muddier the values are, the more anxiety that creates. Being stuck in American vs. Slavic values has created its own herd of anxieties for myself - but thankfully I had the compass of my faith in Christ, which created clarity in my identity. I cannot imagine the effects of not having a sense of clarity or an anchor in life amidst the rushing tide of chaos which is life.
As adults, perhaps it is our responsiblity to clearly figure out what our values are. That might be a messy and challenging journey. Nevertheless, discover those values and clearly pass them down to the youth. Share why these values make sense and WHY you believe in them. I fear too many adults are passing values they are not even thinking about. Values that may or may not have sensical meaning and function in the real world.
Regardless, I am looking forward to see where the discussion about youth and the increasing rates of depression and anxiety our world is facing. I am hopeful that discussions will lead to action, which will lead to fruit.
What are your thoughts? After reading the article and this post, I encourage you to post your thoughts.