Millennials and Gen Z look for answers facing America’s mental health crisis

Studies show that Millennials and Generation Z have the worst mental health and suicide rates of any living generation, and America feels the pressure.
After The Covid-19 pandemic, several studies show that Gen Zs and Millennials had their mental health affected due to various factors such as economic issues, social media and more.
After The Covid-19 pandemic, several studies show that Gen Zs and Millennials had their mental health affected due to various factors such as economic issues, social media and more.
Che Womack

An American Psychological Association report said that Gen Z adults and Millennials had their mental health more affected now with the pass of the COVID-19 pandemic. About 15,000 Fullerton College Students are either Gen Z, or millennials, as stated by Univstats .

After the pandemic, the world witnessed a complete shift in how we, as humans, operate. Many in-person classes moved to ZOOM, schools and playgrounds closed to the public, and jobs completely shifted to a remote setting.  According to data collected from College Tuition Compare, 39% of Fullerton College students in the 2022-23 school year, are exclusively enrolled in online courses.

Some Fullerton College students, like Alyse Hein, said that this intense life modification diminished the mental health rates of them, millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) and Generation Z (people born between 1997 and 2012).

“I’m a Millennial, 1994, so close to the Gen Z line, I relate a lot to Gen Zs,” said Hein. “Covid affected everything. I graduated with my Master’s in May of 2020, and I was trying to find a job in my field, but I lost count of around 200 resumes that I sent out.”

New York Times bestselling author Dan Schawbel, who has studied the workplace preferences, behavior and attitudes across the Baby Boomer, Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z generations, said that he has found Gen Z and Millennial individuals to have been more economically affected by the pandemic.

“One-third of Gen Zs and Millennials report a decline in their mental health and psychological well-being amid the pandemic, compared to only nine percent of Baby Boomers,” said Schawbel.

Hein said that she and many people she knew had been affected economically by the pandemic. “I, along with so many people, had hours cut at my job at the time. I had to move in with my parents, and I felt like I had failed and added all the COVID anxiety, political tensions, and economic crash,” said Hein.

The Walton Family Foundation (WFF), in a partnership with Gallup, a global analytics and advisory company, created a study of the Gen Z experience in America as it relates to their personal growth. Their study found that only 47% of Gen Z are thriving in their lives, the lowest percentage of any generation.

“For about 4 years, I worked counseling in a mental health treatment center,” said Hein. “One thing I noticed about my clients was that there were some who went through rigorous mental health classes and support groups, but were not making progress. Until our generation feels as though we are safe to thrive, we will continue to claw and scrape to feel safe in our heads.”

Hein said that millennials and Gen Z individuals do not get credit from the events they have had to go through, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, several mass shootings, economic recessions and a pandemic to name a few.

“Add to that, social media, which we’ve had to navigate even though our parents never did. If something goes bad in the world, you hear about it immediately,” said Hein.

According to psychiatrist Kyle Kittleson and Dr. Domenick Sportelli in a conversation with MedCircle, social media plays one of the biggest parts in the Millennial and Gen Z mental health declining rates.

While social media is being questioned by everyday Americans It is also facing legality issues on a national scale, as many states point them as responsible for causing mental health problems in young adults.

Meta Platforms Incorporated, Facebook’s social technology company, and formerly Facebook Incorporated, has been sued by over 40 states, including California.

The lawsuit came after public attention surrounding Meta, rose due to a former employee, Frances Haugem. They labeled her as a whistleblower after she released internal documents that demonstrated Meta conducted internal research on teens’ mental health vulnerabilities. Ultimately, it was alleged in the lawsuit that Meta did not do enough to alter its product.

Under the Dodd-Frank Act, should the agency bring forth civil action, Haugem could be eligible for 10-to-30 percent of fines. Facebook (or Meta) would be forced to pay these fines.

California is involved with the Meta lawsuit. In an Oct. 24, press release, California Attorney General, Rob Bonta, co-led a bipartisan coalition, including 33 attorney generals, filed a lawsuit against Meta Platforms Incorporated.

The lawsuit alleges that Meta uses harmful features on Instagram and Facebook, “that addict children and teens to their mental and physical detriment.”

“Our investigation found that Meta has misled its users and it’s putting our children in harm’s way,” said Bonta. “There is a mountain of evidence that social media has had a negative impact on our children. More time on social media tends to be correlated with depression, anxiety and body image.”

Meta, along with Snapchat, Byte Dance and other companies, will proceed with the lawsuit, a federal court ruled on Nov 24. United States District Attorney, Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers (Northern District of California) denied the social platforms’ motion to get rid of the hundreds of complaints and several lawsuits, accusing the companies of running kid-addictive platforms.

The buck does not stop there, because Millennials and Gen Zs are now using social media platforms as a means for therapy. The McKinsey Health Institute’s research, which surveyed over 46,000 people in 26 different countries, found that Gen Z is more likely to use online platforms for digital wellness and mental health.

Fullerton College along with its Health Center, offer aid to students struggling with their mental health. The Center offers free mental health counseling, psychological services and referrals to other clinics.  Some of the mental health problems addressed are stress, depression, anxiety and self- esteem among other problems linked to social media usage.

The Fullerton College Health Center explains on its website that students can schedule an initial screening to determine the help that student needs. After an initial screening, a student can proceed to a limited amount of further session with a licensed therapist or can be referred to another agency.

Research has further displayed the correlation between using these digital mental health programs and Gen Z’s lack of willingness to ask for help.

However, in an attempt for students to seek help when they need it, The Health Care Center hosts Radical Care Tuesday. Every Tuesday in room 227 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., students can attend this meeting and find a therapist they can connect with, other peers that might also be seeking for help and even free food.

A poster outside the 1200 building, that promotes Radical Care Tuesday, a weekly meeting hosted by the Fullerton College Health Care Center that intends to connect therapists with students struggling with their mental health. (Pedro Saravia)

“We are resilient because we ask for help,” said Hein. “We don’t fear therapy or sharing our struggles online. I think we’ve done that because we need to, because it’s hard to go through all of that without help.”

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