By Sam Wing
It was on the rare occasion that I saw my aunt. We were sitting down at the kitchen table talking about how each of us was doing. At some point in our conversation she told me, “ I don’t know why, but your generation is struggling.” Even before she had told me this, I was already aware of the idea that kids nowadays are truly struggling. It’s the fact that I had heard someone actually say the truth out loud that really hit me. What she said got me thinking for days about what was the cause for all of this strife.
Now, I’ll try my best not to bore anyone who’s reading this article, but in order to understand the present, we must understand the past. Before all of these technological advances that we have now, we just had the world itself. Meaning that people didn’t stare at their devices or watch a Saturday Night Live episode at 12:30 am. People just had each other, and whatever nature had to provide. Back then, kids would go out and just play in the streets with each other until the sun began to fall. When the sun went down, they would say their goodbyes to each other and rush inside for a hot meal with their family. Then, after dinner as a family, it was bedtime. That was it; well, not entirely. They still had school, but school was never as intense as it is now.
Now I know some of you are sitting there thinking, “ Like, what was the point of explaining that?” Well the point of explaining that, was to show you what kids used to be like then, and well, how they are now. Nowadays, “ an hour of free play is like a drop of water in the desert (Brooks).” Kids don’t have that luxury anymore of going outside and playing in the streets. Many kids deal with the stress of getting into the best college, having the “golden” transcript, making the varsity soccer team, or even worrying if their parents will make it home for dinner. These are just a couple of examples, but it just goes to show that things like these are what gives kids that anxiety or even depression.
In an article by The New York Times, Kim Brooks explains to readers the increase in depression and suicidal thoughts in kids nowadays. “ According to the psychologist Peter Gray, children today are more depressed than they were during the Great Depression and more anxious than they were at the height of the Cold War. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression rose by more than 60 percent among those ages 14 to 17, and 47 percent among those ages 12 to 13.”
I remember reading this portion of the article and having my mind blown into a million pieces. For years, I felt that I was wrong to think that kids nowadays were worse off, but who knew that my gut feeling was actually right. However, it didn’t end there. Just because I had gotten the answer I had wondered about for years, didn’t mean that I was gonna stop pushing deeper for the true reason of this tragedy. So I sat there for a solid 15 minutes and came to my conclusion. Kids have all these responsibilities that kids back then would never have to deal with. So I asked myself, “ Where did all of these new responsibilities come from?” They came from us, the human race. As we kept inventing and growing our culture, there came new tasks. For instance, we had the “medical boom.” Doctors and medicine improved greatly, causing humans to have a greater lifespan. And with a greater lifespan, that meant that they had more time to keep working and create more. With more innovations and expectations, comes more jobs and tasks for people to worry about. And with this growth, in everything, we began to crave more.
We all want perfection, whether we will admit it or not. But the truth is is that we can’t have perfection because it doesn’t exist. We keep chasing after these ridiculous things because it’s what our society claims is the best. We live in a world that only praises the best, and looks down on the worst. We don’t want to be looked down on by others, so we paint an image. Or a better way to phrase it is a fake image. To pretend that we all have our lives together so others don’t make a fool out of us. It’s kind of crazy to think about it in that way, but it’s the truth. The reason why kids are worse off today is because we feel trapped. Like the whole world is yelling at us to do everything, and do everything right when we can’t. One person can’t do it all without having a breakdown. We all have our own limits in life, but lately, we all tend to ignore our limits.
So what now? What do we do from here? Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve only lived on this planet for 16 years. I haven’t seen enough of the world to see what else is going on. So I guess for now all we really can do is stop. Stop thinking about all the chaos in our lives and just stop and take the time to take care of ourselves mentally more often than physically. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll all come to realize that mental health really matters.