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Why Has The Pandemic Affected The Mental Health Of Gen Z The Most?

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

When something as unexpected as a pandemic hit the world, none of the generations was prepared to deal with it. But the generation most affected by the unprecedented situation brought up by the pandemic is Gen Z.

Gen Z consists of people born between 1997 and 2015. This generation deteriorated during the period of the lockdown. More than anything, their mental health has been suffering.

girl silhouette
Representative Image. (Source: pxfuel)

At a time when they are susceptible to making the best of their time, they are locked inside their homes. Many reasons add up to why stress and depression have been common among Gen Z recently. But uncertainty about the future and halt in growth are the two major contributing reasons.

While talking to adults of age 18 to 21, the college-going ones, it appears that anxiety due to not having a substantial plan for their future is the main issue. Also, at a time when they could have had the best time exploring their interests, the pandemic has made it otherwise.

A clinical psychologist, Kevin Antshel, said fear and anxiety tend to run hand-in-hand. “The more things are uncertain, the more we’re going to fear, and the more we fear things, the more we are anxious.” And prolonged anxiety can lead to depression.

This pandemic has shown that loneliness and restlessness standing together have a worse impact on mental health. Of Gen Z teens aged 13 to 17, 51% said the pandemic has made the future look blurry, and 67% of Gen Z adults in college said the same. Even Gen Z adults in college said that uncertainty in the school years was a major source of stress.

Seeking help with mental health from Gen Z is seen as a strength, not a weakness, as well as considered self-awareness towards keeping ourselves mentally sound. Sometimes, feelings of sadness last for weeks or months and interfere with daily life.

If a young individual is dejected most of the time and has trouble keeping themselves motivated, they may be suffering from depression. Not only Gen Z, but this serious illness can also affect any human being of any age.

So why is Gen Z affected by stress and depression during a pandemic? They “experience adulthood at a time when the future looks uncertain”, while older generations may have more perspectives that allow them to cope with change.

For those who rely on social interactions for verbal or emotional support, the pandemic brought a heavy toll. For young people, the boundaries associated with the pandemic have resulted in shorter social gatherings with friends that cause a principal impact on their mental health.

Representative Image.

The high percentage of Gen Z people reporting poor or disrupted mental health may indicate that they are more aware of mental health issues. Their openness to mental issues allows them to engage in discussions about how to deal with stress, whatever the cause.

Social media has helped normalise mental health problems and reduce stigma among this generation through interdependence and common understanding.

Gen Z has grown up at a time when it is normal and advised to get treatments for mental health problems. A clinical psychologist, Rachna Parekh, said, “In the online therapy sessions last April, I was flooded with constant calls and messages due to the lockdown. From 12-15 calls a month, we now get almost 40 calls.”

While it may seem that young people are more open to mental health (after all, they are adults in a world where mental health is talked about more often than in previous years), Gen Z does not get enough help. Thanks to their internet connections, Gen Z has a sense of social support, which previous generations lacked.

Parents have also developed emotional regulation so that they will be able to teach this to their children. Adults and teens will understand that all feelings are accepted and it’s good to have support. They will also be able to build and nurture authentic and deep relationships with their children through candid conversations. This pandemic has indeed taught us to normalise discussing feelings in the family.

Depression is severe, and if left untreated, can develop into life-threatening conditions. If adolescents with depression refuse treatment, family members or other adults should alter their mindsets to seek professional help.

Therapy can help young people understand why they are depressed and how to deal with stressful situations. Therapy may consist of individual, group or family counselling, depending on the situation. For teens to feel better, they may need medications that may be prescribed by a psychiatrist.

India lockdown
Representative Image.

The awareness of mental health has significantly increased. Before the pandemic, people did not want to talk about mental health issues, stress and anxiety. Now, even the media raises the issue, which was not the case before. However, a usual question always pops up: is it still enough?

According to ResearchGate, the degree of warmth and conflict in parent-youth relationships, on average, decreased during COVID. If your parents aren’t sure if you need a therapist but are thinking about it, explain why. This is best done when you are calm so that you can communicate your ideas well. Some parents may be concerned about finding the right therapist or about the cost.

Mental health needs to become more affordable. In India, only a small segment of youth gets the help because there is almost no psychiatrist in India and the ones which seem helpful are not for economic sections.

The mental health effects will continue for several years after the pandemic is over. Delays in asking for professional help due to mental health stigma will create additional problems.

Parents who fear the stigma associated with mental health care may separate their appointments with their children’s therapists. They may also try to hide their anxiety symptoms. No matter how tempting it is to maintain private mental health care, it can be very helpful for them to tell their children to see a therapist.

When teens are depressed, they have a hard time believing that their prospects can get better. However, healthcare professionals can have a dramatic impact on their life. It can take them back on track and lead them towards the hope for the future.

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