Are you worried about the future? Are you irritable sometimes? Do you sometimes have trouble sleeping?
So, according to at least one prominent “mental health influencer,” you may have clinical anxiety.
Peter Ruppert claims to be an “experienced growth and marketing professional.” He is not a doctor.
However, one of her TikTok videos encouraging viewers to self-diagnose this serious illness has attracted seven million views, 740,000 likes and 46,000 comments.
Ruppert’s video is just one of hundreds, if not thousands, of highly questionable “self-assessment questionnaires” on the youth-oriented app that purports to diagnose every mental health problem out there: from attention deficit disorder to hyperactivity to depression, mysophobia (fear of germs) and agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house).
Many of my colleagues have called in sick to work because they are having a “bad mental health day,” says Clara Gaspar.
Given this frenetic climate of pathologising of mental illness, perhaps we should not be surprised by the report on the front page of yesterday’s Mail (titled ‘Generation Sicknote’) warning that an epidemic of mental illness is preventing thousands of young Britons from getting a job. job.
According to the report by the Resolution Foundation think tank, the number of young people aged 18 to 24 who are “economically inactive” for health reasons has more than doubled in the last decade, from 93,000 to 190,000.
In 2021/2022, the study found that a third of this age group experienced “symptoms of mental illness”, such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, compared to a quarter at the turn of the millennium. And four in ten cited this as their main reason for not working.
I was born in 1997, making me one of the oldest members of ‘Generation Z’ (those born between approximately 1996 and 2012). And I have seen for myself what the report describes. Many of my coworkers have called in sick to work because they are having a “bad mental health day.” Some have pressured their bosses to implement “duvet days”—that is, days off for “self-care”—into the work calendar. Others have resisted demands to return to the office five days a week, claiming it wouldn’t be good for their “work-life balance” and, worse, could affect their “mental well-being.”
Given its inevitable impact on the workplace, your colleagues, and your careers, this behavior is bad enough in itself. But as Professor Matthew Goodwin wrote in these pages last week, it is also devastating the economy.
In Britain, some 481,000 young people aged between 16 and 24 are currently unemployed.
Of them, 280,000 now depend on some type of unemployment benefit: 50,000 more than before the pandemic and almost double what a decade ago.
Last year, Dragon’s Den judge Steven Bartlett, 31, who became a millionaire at just 23 as the founder of a social media marketing agency, sent social media into a frenzy when he accused Generation Z of being “the least resilient generation” he had ever had. never seen
As a result of this rise in mental health diagnoses, large numbers of young people are taking medication. The number of 18-24 year olds taking antidepressants in the UK has risen from 440,000 in 2015-16 to 570,000 in 2021-22, an increase of 31 per cent.
Of course, genuine mental health problems are serious and require proper treatment from professionals. And it’s true that some people are so severely affected that they can’t keep their jobs.
However, the recent explosion of reports of mental illness does little to counter the perception that too many people my age are simply sensitive, hard-working “snowflakes.”
So is an entire generation really too sad and anxious, too lacking in resilience, to enter the workforce? Or is the problem more complicated?
Perhaps the key to this issue lies in parents, schools and universities.
Last week it was reported that the fertility rate in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest level since 1940.
A low birth rate and parents having fewer children in the future means that many children are more pampered than previous generations. And “helicopter parenting” doesn’t end when young people go to college, where they traditionally begin to accept life as adults.
Today, graduates leave institutions that in recent years have transformed from forums for lively debates to forums that overprotect and question their students little.
Take for example the claim that students at the University of Greenwich who read Dracula were “warned” that the masterpiece contained “descriptions of spiders and other insects.”
Oxford University students studying Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales were notified that the 600-year-old text could contain “racist and misogynistic views.” These young bookworms, supposedly some of the brightest in the country, were urged to seek support if the material worried them.
Students are also increasingly protected from even learning about controversial viewpoints. Last year, Edinburgh University canceled a screening of a film that claimed women are defined by biological sex, after trans rights activists protested.
This is just one of countless examples the Mail has reported of universities appeasing activists in a bid to avoid offence. As a result, recent graduates have become immersed in so-called “securityism”: the notion that nothing should bother them.
It’s no surprise, then, that when it comes to constructive criticism from managers or difficult conversations with colleagues, many simply lack the emotional resilience to deal with it. The same “securityism” also means that sadness and discomfort (inevitable parts of the human condition) are increasingly medicalized.
I know people my age who have claimed to be “clinically depressed” after a breakup. Others, nervous before an important exam, have announced that they suffer from an “anxiety disorder.”
While exams are stressful and breakups unpleasant, the fact is that they are normal, even character-building, events. Too many have strayed from that old saying: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The motto of this generation could be: “What doesn’t kill you weakens you.”
As that extraordinary Peter Ruppert video shows, social media invariably makes all of this worse. The average Generation Z has had a smartphone since they were 13 years old.
And in a space where “sharing” is everything, which of course can be a source of support for those suffering, you don’t have to look far on TikTok to find influencers talking about their “menty-b” ( slang for “menty-b”). “mental breakdown”) or their “bed rot” days, which they spend under their duvets for the sake of their mental health.
While millennials once loved the “hustler” mentality, two years ago the trend of “quietly quitting” emerged on social media: doing the bare minimum at work to avoid getting fired.
The hashtag “act on your salary,” meaning your efforts should equal your salary, no more, no less, has 180 million views. Then there’s the ‘lazy girl job’ hashtag, under which members of Generation Z brag about their low-stress, low-effort roles.
Some might wonder if it is any wonder that so many young people barely bother to work given stagnant wages, inadequate public services and rising rents. But excluding yourself from society is not the answer, especially because of the economic impact.
If Generation Z doesn’t quickly return to the workplace, they may find that things are about to get a lot worse.