Mental Health & Millennials: What is Happening?

Why do Millennials suffer from extreme depression and anxiety?  Look at your typical stressed out college student.  Is it simply just stress from projects, tests and lack of sleep that is causing psychological issues?  Or is it stemming from deeper issues?  Undoubtedly, there are distinct behaviors that are synonymous with "millenials."  We live in a world of instant gratification.  Every minute detail of our peer’s lives are broadcasted for all to see.  How has this played a part in the structure of mental health of the "millennial"? 

Imagine, while you’re slaving away at work, hanging clothes on the retail hanger, you see one of your friend’s trip to Cabo on Instagram.  You immediately feel awful about yourself, and the fact you’re stuck in a seemingly pointless job making minimum wage.  You are flooded with feelings of dissatisfaction, displeasure with your own life, and anxiety that you aren’t doing anything “cool."

Has something like this happened to you?  

Social networking apps did not exist during the time of our parents.  Instagram is only six years old, Facebook was created in 2004, and Snapchat has only been around since 2011.  Past generations never dealt with mobile apps displaying the day-to-day, minute-to-minute broadcast of everyone’s’ lives.  Ever gone through a break up?  Did social media make it that much more painful?  The fact that you most likely had to see your ex’s every move displayed on multiple social media apps.  And the minute you thought you weren’t heart broken, your ex posts a pic with some new person he or she is dating.  Boom.  You feel sick to your stomach.  You might have even considered deleted Facebook at some point in time just to avoid that extra pain.        

Dating has become extremely shallow due to apps like Tinder and Bumble.  Millennials briefly glance at three or four photos of a potential prospect, and then decide if they like them enough to start a written conversation.  Half those people are looking for just a physical connection unbeknownst to those other half who are desperately searching for a serious relationship.  Millennials struggle to meet people in real life situations, which results in retracting to social dating apps as the only outlet to meeting people of the opposite sex. 

Image from The Odyssey.

It is speculated that Millennials’ social skills are diminishing because they are glued to their phones 24/7.  Thanks to fast advances in technology, Millennials do not know any other way of life.  So don’t be so quick to blame them.  Millennials are essentially the world’s guinea pigs for this whole instant, hand-held technology thing and are the first generation to be thrust into this type of technology--the world of Tinder, Uber, Instagram, Snapchat, selfies and YouTube.

In addition to that, it is also suggested that Millennials are more depressed than any other generation preceding them.  They are the generation that is absolutely spilling to the brim with stress and anxiety.  Getting a Bachelors degree in 2016 is equivalent to a high school diploma and job market demands higher-level degrees or years of experience for entry-level positions.  Millennials are realizing that post graduation doesn’t mean acquiring a job with an entry-level salary, benefits and job security.  To be frank, there is absolutely no job security, and it’s scary as hell.  David Pasch, a spokesman for Generation Opportunity says, “If you look at the numbers starting in 2009, we’ve been in the longest sustained period of unemployment since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting their data following World War II.  This misconception that we don’t want jobs or that we’re lazy and entitled is nonsense.” 

After graduation, Millennials are faced with absurd amounts of accrued student debt; it has caused many grads to question if such costly schooling was even worth it.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics College, “From 2002 to 2012, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 40 percent, and prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 28 percent.”  Millennials are facing crippling student debt post graduation, and historically it is at its worst levels ever. 

Photo from East Tenth Group.

Entry-level job positions are being filled by far too qualified candidates, booting out most grads from even being considered.  Mirjana Schultz, President of Instant Alliance, tells Dice.com, “Companies want to make investments in talent, but the inherent costs of that talent also make them wary of hiring anyone but the absolute best.  They’re looking for ways to leverage and to justify the cost of hiring.”  It’s a catch twenty-two.  You need experience to get the job, but the job already requires X amount of years experience.  Companies are looking out for their best interest, and sadly they see fresh college grads as too much of a risk.  In my opinion, this means the majority of Millennial job hiring is solely based on nepotism. 

Twenty-somethings graduate and find themselves tossed out into the real world, jobless, scared, and feeling more hopeless than ever clutching their seemingly worthless diplomas.  Their parents repeatedly say, “When I was your age, I was working at X making such and such amount.”  This leaves Millennials feeling inadequate with an overwhelming sense of failure.  Times are remarkably incommensurable, and the economy is inherently different from when the Baby Boomers were graduating and taking on the job market.  That is simple economics.  That is why its so infuriating that the Baby Boomer generation has labeled Millennials as cry babies who are unwilling to work hard at attaining a job.  News flash, Millennials are searching very hard to become employed.  Not only are Millennials battling unemployment, they are battling depression and feelings of being very misunderstood.  They grow being told how important education is only to graduate and become the most unemployed generation yet.

According to Jean Twenge, a social psychologist at San Diego State University, one of the main reasons Millennials might be facing such high levels of anxiety and depression is because the family dynamic is drastically changing.  Most marriages end in divorce, gender roles are progressing, and the structure of family life is evolving.  This can have a tremendous impact.  Most Millennials feel disengaged with their families--turning to social media instead of spending time face-to-face is the norm.  Without close social ties, Millennials feel disassociated and lonely when they seek adventure and travel.  Most Millennials move away from their hometowns in search of something better and more exciting than their small town life they grew up knowing buteing further from family and loved ones contributes to the feelings of isolation and emptiness. 

Millennials are quite ambitious, and they set very high standards and goals for themselves, so when they fail to achieve these goals, it results in repressed feelings of sadness and defeat.  Market researcher Mike Hais told USA Today, "Millennials are growing up at a tough time. They were sheltered in many ways, with a lot of high expectations for what they should achieve.   Individual failure is difficult to accept when confronted with a sense you're an important person and expected to achieve.  Even though, in most instances, it's not their fault -- the economy collapsed just as many of them were getting out of college and coming of age -- that does lead to a greater sense of stress.”  There is no solution to the state of the economy and job market, at least not one that will solve all the Millennial’s unemployment problems. 

However, keeping strong social ties with family and friends will be extremely beneficial to achieving good mental health.  Practicing self-love even when you start to feel down during moments of hardship, when life isn’t going exactly how you pictured when you were younger, is imperative to achieving positive mental health.