"The strongest people are those who win battles we know nothing about"
Everyone deals with stress. It's a part of life. A lot of people around my age are crippled by anxiety and stress. I think this is because in today's world it is so much easier to connect with more people. Social media allows us to reach so many people so quickly. The more people you connect with, the more people you have to impress and look good for. You're probably reading this and saying to yourself: "Oh I don't care what people think of me, I am confident in who I am". However, I contest that we do care what other people think. So much so that the way people view us directly impacts how we view ourselves. Jay Shetty, a popular author and speaker, says that we "live in a perception of a perception of ourselves. If we think someone thinks we're smart, we feel smart. If we think someone thinks we don't look good, we think we don't look good". Isn't if fascinating how the mind works?
People around my age (millennials/Gen Zers) struggle with self-esteem and discovering who they want to be because they have so many outside influences inadvertently telling them who they should be. They see their friends on social media doing certain things and they feel they need to do those things in order to be liked, to be successful, and to be part of the group. If they don't do those things then they feel that their friends won't like them or won't want to hang out with them. You can scroll through Instagram and see 50 people whose lives look better than yours. You can scroll through LinkedIn and see 50 people who are accomplishing more than you and seem to have their whole life figured out. Kids my age are surrounded by people who seem to be smarter than them, seem to be doing more than them, and seem to have it all together. When you think people are smarter than you, doing more than you, and happier than you, you start to become sad, lonely, and your self-esteem drops a little bit. Add this to the stress of academics, trying to figure out what you want to do with your life, and learning to be independent. Sooner or later you reach your limit. It all becomes a little too much to handle. Some people deal with this by drinking, using drugs, or another method to escape the stress for a little while. Others aren't able to bear the burden and fall into depression. The funny thing is that you usually can't find the person who is depressed because they've learned to live with a mask on and hide the way they are feeling.
This brings me to the focus of this blog post...mental health. According to an ABC News article published this past October, "suicide is the 10th leading cause of death across the U.S. population, but is second-most among college-aged students". Suicide statistics independent of college "reveal a spike in suicidality between the ages of 15 and 25. Until the age of 25, rational thinking and the ability to regulate emotions and impulses are still developing. The biological risk factors coupled with the inevitable challenges of acclimating to a new environment make college students more vulnerable to experiencing anxiety and mental health issues regardless of their mental health history". Sepp Panzer, a junior at Columbia University, said that his "primary support was gone, and the pressure to succeed was such a strain and drove [him] back to depression" while at school.
I think we, as a society, need to stop calling millennials "snowflakes" and need to start taking an interest in the mental health of those around us. Kids my age have the stereotype that they are going to be living with their parents until they are thirty applied to them. Kids my age have the stereotype that they are lazy and soft applied to them. Kids my age have the stereotype that they don't know what hardship is or are out of touch with the real world applied to them. My response to these stereotypes is that some of us millennials and Gen Zers are actually working our asses off to get good grades, to find our path in life, and to make something of ourselves. Some of us are working so hard, stressing so hard that we drive ourselves mad. So instead of pretending like we really know one another and instead of stereotyping people, let's start showing each other compassion. This world is full of suffering and full of hate but you can be the one to be a little more kind, to be a little more loving. YOU can be the difference in someone's life. Choose which person you are going to be: the person who stands from afar and judges/stereotypes or the person who sits down with someone who is struggling and truly listens.
If you are struggling in any way please know that you can always talk to me...even if we haven't talked in ages...I am here for you!
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.