Gen Z, Mental Illness, and AR-15s
Like every partent, teen, and American, I am extremely sadened by the cowardly act of violence which led to the death of seventeen high school students yesterday on South Florida.
I just watched Florida Gov. Scott address yesterday's high school shooting. He says "People who are mentally ill should not be able to buy guns." Sounds good when you say it fast but...80% of teens indicate that they suffer from mild to moderate anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. Of that 80%, less than 20% are "diagnosed." There is no way to identify every teen with a mental illness accurately. The issue is early identification and getting easy and accessible access to care before kids get to high school. 50% of mental illnesses start before the age of 14.
Yesterday's horrific event was the 18th school shooting in the U.S. this year, and we are only six weeks into the year! Gen Z is experiencing a mental health crisis. It will not get better until we provide more mental health education for parents, even as early as elementary school. Schools and parents must embrace disruptive solutions like tele-mental-health technology that can provide teens 24-7 access to a licensed counselor. The national student-to-counselor ratio for the 2014-15 school year was 480 students for every one counselor. If 80% are experiencing mental health challenges, that means each counselor must manage 385 students with anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide. In many cases, counselors must do this in addition to managing schedules and the school district's standardised testing requirements.
There are many internal and external reasons mental health issues are rising at alarming rates with Gen Zs and Millennials. Social media must share the blame as their adicting technology has young people comparing everyone's highlight reels to their own normal and, not as exciting lives. Social media gives every bully unlimited opportunities to inflict emotional pain on whomever they choose from anywhere in the world, anytime of the day. There is no escape for their victims. Bullying has moved beyond the physical school parking lot brawals Boomers and Gen Xers experienced. Now bullying can cause their victims to experience FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out on those not as popular making them feel unwanted, friendless, and empty.
How about violent media and video games? I was never one to say that playing video games can turn people into killers but my opinion is chaning becuase of the advances in virtual reality.
I wrote about "Generation Stress: Mental Illness, a Gen Z Silent Epidemic" in the Gen Z chapter of my book, Intergenerational Engagement: Understanding the Five Generations in Today's Economy.
While I would love for you to buy my book, I think it is important for everyone to understand what's happening with our youngest generation. With that said, I have posted the section on my blog for everyone to access for FREE. It is longer than a typical blog post, but it is an essential read especially for parents raising teens, educators teaching kids, and anyone that works closely with Generation Z. I hope you learn something and share it widely.
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