Not so long ago, many worried about the future of millennials—and for good reasons. Were they ever going to be able to afford a house? Probably not. What about love, would they find it in the end? I am not one to make any assumptions but it certainly looked like it was going to be a rough ride for them. Okay, last shot then: were millennials going to survive, and perhaps even tackle, burnout once and for all? The answer to this question remains debatable.
But now, especially today on World Mental Health Day, the focus has shifted from millennials to gen Zers. In the middle of a pandemic, it’s only normal for us to worry about the younger generations, and it looks like gen Z is in the eye of the storm. With anxiety levels rising at an unprecedented speed and social media platforms doing little to boost our confidence, times are hard, to say the least. Could the mental health of gen Z truly be at risk?
In order to find out, I’ve asked for some help from the gen Z live platform Yubo, who shared with its users a few of my questions. The poll was conducted this month on 12,000 British gen Zers aged between 13 and 25 years old. In other words, I managed to speak to just the right audience. Here’s how they feel at the moment and what they had to say about the current state of their mental health.
60 per cent of the participants reported experiencing feelings of depression during this year’s pandemic. I mean, that should have been expected. Mixing isolation with a media overflow of bad and scary news has never been defined as the perfect environment for happiness and blossoming but 60 per cent is a worrying statistic.
There is a major mental health crisis on the horizon and it’s about to hit gen Zers the hardest. While some have argued that these trends are not real, but instead reflect this generation’s greater openness about their mental health symptoms, there is actual evidence that these numbers reflect a disturbing reality.
After all, it’s hard to argue that the increased rates of suicide attempts and completed suicide are a self-reporting bias.
2 in 5 British gen Zers report being anxious at this time. Again, not mind-blowing at first glance—name me one person who doesn’t know someone who’s feeling anxious about the coronavirus pandemic. However, with this in mind, it’s important that we don’t sweep gen Z’s anxiety under the rug under the excuse that literally everyone is anxious right now.
Unlike previous generations, gen Z doesn’t live by the motto ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. Instead, it is led to believe that if they encounter something that is offensive to them or something that worries them, they would then be made weaker by it.
Gen Zers see themselves as the fragile protagonists in a battle against evil. These beliefs set us up for depression and anxiety, and all those feelings are only exacerbated by COVID-19.
Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: social media. While, so far, my findings have been quite negative and worrying, when it comes to social media, gen Zers seem to be keeping a positive outlook. According to Yubo’s research, 1 in 5 British gen Zers believe that social media can help improve mental health and wellbeing.
As much as I’d like to list the many negative impacts of social media on our mental health, I cannot deny that it also represents some important positives. Not only does it help younger generations develop critical thinking, social media provides a sense of community. I’m not saying that it is a completely safe space but at least, when we were all stuck indoors for months, we had Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to turn to when in need of social interactions.
Furthermore, as we’ve seen during the recent Black Lives Matter movement that followed the death of George Floyd, social media also provided gen Zers with a voice and an incredible reach. Shadowbanned or not, we still managed to use those platforms to our advantage.
Of course, there’s no quick or easy fix for addressing the challenges that gen Zers face. Coming from millennials and older generations, more understanding and conversations might help but in the end, it comes down to us and our generation to strive for change. And what better way to start doing so than by tackling cancel culture?
42 per cent of gen Zers don’t believe that it’s right to cancel people. On top of that, 1 in 2 British gen Zers have admitted that the fear of being cancelled gives them anxiety, with 18 per cent of respondents reporting that they have stopped posting photos online due to this fear. So, while this may not be the solution to all of our problems, cancelling cancel culture might be the first step towards a healthier future for gen Z. And who knows, we might even feel less anxious about COVID-19, Trump and our planet because of it?
For a few years now, many have described the generation Z as sensitive, lazy and addicted to social media. While some of it is most definitely true, we’ve recently started seeing gen Z as the one that will change things. Now, as the Black Lives Matter movement carries on protesting in the US as well as in the rest of the world, we wonder if gen Z could actually be the generation that tackles systemic racism.
To answer this, we asked the gen Z live platform Yubo to share a few of our questions with its users. The poll was conducted between 9 June and 15 June and had Yubo survey over 13,000 people aged 13 to 25 years old in the UK. This allowed Screen Shot to get gen Zers’ opinion on the movement of protest that followed George Floyd’s murder in the US.
From the poll’s results, 7 statistics stood out as clear signs that gen Z could well be the generation of change.
In order to achieve any kind of change, we need to accept that there is something wrong in the first place. That’s why we asked Yubo’s gen Zers residing in the UK whether they felt like black people were treated differently than white people. In other words, we wanted to see if they could admit the existence of white privilege.
In response, 4 out of 5 gen Zers said they believe that black people are treated differently, compared to only 2 out of 3 of their parents sharing the same belief. For many, denying white privilege comes from misunderstanding the concept.
Not fully grasping how society privileges white individuals has led many to believe that black people who have suffered from police brutality somehow deserved the blame. In comparison, the new generation has been helped by social media and the internet in understanding where white privilege comes from and how exactly it benefits certain people.
While certain news outlets have made it their mission to depict the many protests that followed George Floyd’s murder as violent, many protesters have testified against these statements. We’ve discovered that, in the UK, 4 out of 5 gen Zers believe that peaceful protests are necessary to facilitate change, confirming that most new gens intend to protest peacefully and not violently. Half of their parents hold the same belief.
With the current movement still going strong, we’ve seen the protesters’ resilience and willingness to sacrifice their time and energy in a cause that is more than worth it. Despite the risk of getting arrested by the police, new gens have admitted they would be prepared to take that risk in order to make their voice heard.
While previous generations have been quick to point the finger at the US, as we’ve seen Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis do last week in an interview with George the Poet, gen Z is also calling out the UK and other countries as being responsible for systemic racism, too. Ignoring the UK’s denial of its own racism is as disingenuous as ignoring the US’ police brutality and racism, and doing so only further perpetuates white privilege in the UK.
These statistics portray gen Zers as strong protesters who are aware of systemic issues as well as willing to take action. But admitting and fighting these don’t come without its toll on new gen’s mental and physical wellbeing.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fight against racism and injustice couldn’t wait. While staying home as much as possible is still strongly recommended by governments, protesters have had to make do with their best tool in order to make their voices heard: protesting.
Just yesterday, police officers in London urged Priti Patel to impose an emergency ban on all protests during the coronavirus pandemic, warning officers were being put at risk by a wave of mass demonstrations. Although wearing masks, gloves, and keeping a two meters distance from other protesters are the best ways to avoid risk of getting COVID-19, many protesters are still concerned about their health. The situation, however, has not discouraged the Black Lives Matter movement from fighting back.
Protesting has never been easy. But now, more than ever, with the constant flow of graphic and harmful content our brains receive through social media platforms, we find ourselves on edge frequently. This has had an impact on gen Z’s mental health. As an activist, looking after your mental health is a necessary step in the fight against systemic racism.
This statistic highlights how much more effort we need to make as a generation. Protests must carry on, yes, but we also need to provide more information to anyone that might feel the need to research how to take action. Only by doing so will we start tackling systemic racism.
These protests are made of passionate, non-violent young leaders fighting for a brighter future. Those who previously criticised the new generation for being too connected, too woke or even too sensitive will be compelled to reconsider their stance soon enough.