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Mental illness epidemic in younger generations

Illness and disease have been common throughout human history. In medieval times, there was the black death; in the early modern era, there was the flu; and just four years ago, we very recently had the COVID pandemic. Whether it’s an issue that pressed us centuries in the past or just a measly four, every generation of every society has dealt with illness. Yet, as we now progress in a time where death from acute diseases like flu and cholera is pretty much unheard of, our society faces a much deadlier disease: mental illness.

According to the St. Augustine School of Health Science, 19% of the population has anxiety, and 9% have a form of depression. These numbers may seem low, yet when the data is broken down to generations there’s a reason for concern.

Twenty-eight percent of Gen X have seen at least three symptoms of a mental illness in the past three weeks, 38% percent for Millennials, and 47% percent for Gen Z. The middle-aged and younger generations are the majority of people who are stricken by mental illness, and having nearly the majority of a generation experiencing distress is a telltale sign that something is up, especially when most cases go undiagnosed.

Despite how untouchable it may seem, our society is very fragile. Issues such as mass hysteria, weak governance, and loss of identity have all thrown great civilizations into chaos.

Society is fragile, and pressing issues affecting half of its young population are a cause for concern. Most people recognize this crisis but don’t know the exact causes. The leading cause I have seen in person and online is negative feedback loops. Society can be seen as a rat race; students are told to go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a job, and accumulate material possessions until they inevitably die. Within our lives, repetition and boredom become the norm. Despite the human desire to have a rigid and scheduled life, the current human condition is not sustainable. People are tired of the 9-5 and working until 65 to get the life they want. It begs whether this formerly fulfilling model is an excellent way to continue into the future. 

In response to this crisis, people have taken more pills, trying to put a mindset of grinding at school, work, and the gym, yet we still see the crisis get worse. What I think is happening is that our society was and still is too slow to react. People didn’t start to care about mental health until around 1999 when the Columbine shooting happened, and even now, it’s still seen as a niche topic. With a slow reaction, there hasn’t been nearly enough time to find a solution. While things like SSRIs, therapy, and sunlight are all good bandaids, they aren’t helping as much as we need them to.

I know this is a pressing issue, but I honestly don’t know what solution is needed. Mental illness will continue to increase right now, and it will become like the black death. Even if there isn’t a solution right now, the best thing we can do is first recognize the issue and not forget it. We need to be introspective regarding our society as a whole and ourselves as individuals. 

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Elijah Cruz
Elijah Cruz, Staff Writer
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