If your social media looks anything like mine, it’s probably filled with memes about dealing with depression and anxiety. Whenever I see jokes about those otherwise exhausting problems, part of me feels comforted. I’m reminded that I’m not the only one going through this, and it’s nice to think I’m understood. But the other part of me has to wonder how common these types of memes seem to be, and then I wonder… Why? Why is it so normal for teenagers and young adults to suffer from depression and anxiety in today’s age, to the point where they’re turned into common jokes?
The differences between generations
Obviously, teens and young adults aren’t the only ones who suffer from depression and anxiety. There are older adults, elderly people, and even children who share our curse. Furthermore, not every teen or young adult bears the burden of depression and/or anxiety (those lucky ducks). Still, we can’t ignore that those illnesses are quite prevalent among us today.
Right off the bat, one reason for this is how different things are now than they were back then. Or maybe they were sort of the same back then too, but we’re just a lot more aware of it now? Either way, some things have changed.
The perspective of a “boomer”
I asked my 64 year old mother about why she thinks people my age are mentally overwhelmed today, and she gave me a few answers.
First, she said that things were indeed simpler back when she was a child. In her experience, things like going to school and getting married weren’t as expensive as they are now. In fact, she said the government would pay her parents a little salary while she attended.
Moreover, marriage wasn’t as big of an event that needed so much planning and saving as it tends to be now, and finding a place to live wasn’t as difficult either. If the newlyweds back then couldn’t find a home for themselves for some reason, they would just live with their parents, and it wasn’t seen as weird or a failure.
Secondly, she said that not having so many things at their disposal, like we do now, meant that she and her siblings would look forward to even the littlest things. For example, they would be over the moon when they got new clothes, and would even sleep next to them that night, because it wasn’t something the family could do whenever they wanted. My mom believes that getting almost anything we want, whenever we want, means we have less to look forward to in life now, contributing to our depression.
Finally, one aspect she mentioned that I believe to be a big contributor to mental stress and exhaustion is the state of present day capitalism. This is linked to the first reason above, but as Anne Helen Peterson describes in her book about millennial burnout, the millennial generation today faces minimum wage jobs whose salaries don’t even cover the month’s rent, not to mention other necessities.
Furthermore, let’s not forget the debts many need to pay, such as their student loans. Add to that the emphasis on “hustle culture,” working as much as you can to “earn” your keep even if it means burning out in the end, and the high rates of depression and anxiety don’t seem like such a mystery anymore.
What can we do about it?
I wish this could end like many of my other articles, where I give advice on how to deal with the situation. Unfortunately, this is more of a worldwide problem than a personal one.
All I can really say is that, if you suffer from anxiety and depression, try not to pressure yourself into performing at the same capacity as an “average” person would. Easier said than done, but if you have the chance to prioritize your mental health, please take it.
If you’ve read this and are one of those lucky ducks who don’t have these problems, please be kind and patient with the people around you who do. Just existing can be draining some days, so try to sympathize and be more understanding of certain limits others might have that you don’t.
If you have your own opinions on why so many of us are depressed and anxious these days, feel free to comment down below. I would love to hear what you think!