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Column: Mental health education more important than ever

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Mental Health

The American Psychological Association conducts the Stress in America Survey every year, and the 2018 survey was released Oct. 30.

Generation Z, 15 to 21, is more likely to report mental health issues, receiving treatment and feeling the symptoms of stress compared to older generations in the United States, according to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America Survey.

APA conducts the Stress in America Survey every year, and the 2018 survey was released Oct. 30. The Stress in America Survey is part of APA’s Mind/Body Health campaign, which educates the public on the connection between psychological and physical health.

This survey should be a wake-up call not only to Generation Z, but also to the generations before, such as millennials, Generation X and even baby boomers. Mental health should be a priority to everyone; it should be as important as physical health.

Twenty-seven percent of Generation Z reports its mental health as fair or poor, compared to 15 percent of millennials and only 13 percent Generation X reporting the same state of its mental health, according to the survey.

Stress has caused 91 percent of Generation Z to experience physical or emotional symptoms such as feeling depressed, sad or lacking interest and motivation, and only 50 percent of people surveyed in Generation Z think they manage their stress well, according to APA.

What has caused this spike in mental health issues? Why is the youngest generation feeling more stressed than any other generation? What is different?

Samantha Wert, a Generation Z student at Oklahoma State University, said she thinks her generation is experiencing more mental health issues and higher amounts of stress because it is harder to live in this world, compared to the world older generations were living in.

“School demands every ounce from young people, and there is no guarantee of a job or support after college,” Wert said. “Everything is so expensive and our parents had it easier when they were younger.”

The APA reported issues such as sexual assault, mass shootings, separation and deportation of families, the political climate, the nation’s future and discrimination are causing stress among Generation Z.

Rachel Remick, a Mental Health Counseling graduate student at OSU, said because of the rise of the unknown, people are still trying to learn what the repercussions and outcomes could be, and this could be why Generation Z is struggling.

“I think we are still learning boundaries and how things affect us,” Remick said. “There are so many unknowns that everyone is trying to figure out.”

Issues that are hard for young people to control or to understand are adding unnecessary stress. Current events in the United States are leading young adults to worry and stress more than what is healthy.

“Generation Z was alive and aware when gay marriage was made legal, when Trump was president,” Remick said. “Generation Z is and was young when politics and government started changing.”

Fifteen to 21-year-olds should enjoy high school, getting excited about college or preparing to graduate, not freaking out about issues this country seems to be in constant argument over.

Wert said she and her friends stress more because of the things heard on the news or fear of sexual assault. She said though as a heterosexual white woman, she does not fear as much as someone in the minority, she does worry about the people in this country who are at a higher risk of discrimination.

“It’s hard to see people in your community who are white and unaffected care so little about the political climate because they just think in their own bubble with their own interest in mind,” Wert said. “It fuels my stress even more.”

The way people view mental health and how they take care of themselves as a young person will stick with them the rest of their lives. Generation Z should start caring about its mental health now before stress becomes too much.

“Mental health bleeds into every area of our lives,” Remick said. “If someone has great mental health, I think they are more resilient, have better relationships and are more satisfied with life.”

People should learn how to manage stress and mental health issues as soon as they feel the symptoms. Wert said she struggles while dealing with stress and anxiety, but she writes down the things that are bothering her to manage.

“I think just calling attention to stress physically somewhere outside of my head instead of agonizing over it helps me think clearer,” Wert said.

People should not be ashamed of seeing a therapist, talking to a counselor or getting on medication. Remick said talking about mental health and letting close ones know what is going on is a good step to take when struggling with a mental illness. Mental illness should be talked about more, and generations should be educated on how to fight it.

“I think older generations are more likely to deny mental illness, while Generation Z is more open about it,” Remick said. “Each generation is dealing with new things and learning, but this is one of the first times that people are opening up and advocating for it.”

Regardless of whether the generation’s stress is because of something it can or cannot control, managing stress can be learned. The United States’ future is important, but it should not be causing this much suffering among Generation Z. Older generations should be doing what they can to help change the rising tensions and help Generation Z feel at ease. Also, people in Generation Z can vote on pressing issues when they become of age. There are steps the country can take to help the United States and inevitably help the mental health of Generation Z.

“Listen without judgment,” Remick said. “Be a safe person for others. Let them know that no matter how hard it is to believe, they are not alone.”