I’ll start off by saying I don’t think it’s fair to any generation to claim you know what’s ailing them. I think a generation of people is so large and diverse, it’s hard to make generalizations that will apply to anything larger than a subgroup.
But that doesn’t stop both journalists and others from speculating about “what’s wrong with Millennials.”
For good reason — rates of depression are on the rise amongst older teens and young adults, hitting levels we’ve never seen before. Recent studies put the rate of depression as high as 44 percent among college students. Suicide remains a leading cause of death in this age group.
So is depression the problem? Helicopter parenting? Something else? Let’s find out.
The article, bylined by Brooke Donatone who’s a therapist, and appearing in the Washington Post’s Health & Science section, gives us a glimpse as to the challenges millennials face:
Millennials do have to face some issues that previous generations did not. A college degree is now the career equivalent of what a high school degree used to be. This increases the pressure on kids to go to college and makes the process more competitive. The sluggish economy no longer yields a wealth of jobs upon graduation.
I will, however, point out that this is not a new challenge unique to this generation — contrary to the writer’s shallow assertion. Previous generations also dealt with incredible hardships — from WWI and WWII, to the Great Depression, Vietnam, and the recession of the 1980s. These things defined previous generations, all of which still managed to pull themselves together and make something of themselves.
Should we be upset that people are now more highly educated than ever before, and are on the same kind of level playing field for the same kind of jobs that have always been available (if not in just as great supply at the moment)?
So while I think the setup for the argument is a bit of a strawman, I’ll accept the premise that today’s college graduates are having a harder time of it than in recent memory. Therapist Donatone doesn’t attribute this to the narcissism of today’s youth (as some have done, pointing to the self-involved navel-gazing of most popular social networks, like Facebook).
Instead, she thinks it’s because today’s youth and young adults simply have been, for lack of a better word, spoiled by helicopter parents who have sheltered their children from a life of disappointments or delayed gratification:
Their bigger challenge is conflict negotiation, and they often are unable to think for themselves. The over-involvement of helicopter parents prevents children from learning how to grapple with disappointments on their own. If parents are navigating every minor situation for their kids, kids never learn to deal with conflict on their own. Helicopter parenting has caused these kids to crash-land.
Indeed. And even if it’s not helicopter parenting for many of these young adults, it’s simply learning that you don’t have to do everything for yourself. Without learning that emotional independence earlier on, it’s being pushed off for some young adults.
A generation ago, my college peers and I would buy a pint of ice cream and down a shot (or two) of peach schnapps to process a breakup. Now some college students feel suicidal after the breakup of a four-month relationship. Either ice cream no longer has the same magical healing properties or the ability to address hardships is lacking in many members of this generation.
The era of instant gratification has led to a decrease in what therapists call “frustration tolerance.” This is how we handle upsetting situations, allow for ambiguity and learn to navigate the normal life circumstances of breakups, bad grades and layoffs. When we lack frustration tolerance, moderate sadness may lead to suicidal tendencies in those who lack the ability to self-soothe.
All of this is informed conjecture, of course, as there’s not much research that’s been done in this area. But some of it rings true to me, and from talking with others — both therapists and young adults — I’m not the only who sees more and more young adults who just don’t seem to have the emotional and psychological coping skills as young adults that were once more commonplace.
An alternative view — and one worth considering — is that perhaps we’re focusing on millennials more because of a poor economy that is keeping such young adults from entering the workforce, finding a partner, marrying, and starting a family.
Read the full article here: Why are so many millennials depressed? A therapist points the finger at Mom and Dad