There seems to be an entire generation of young adults that would just as soon leave off the word “adult” in their descriptor. Those individuals who came of age right around the year 2000, otherwise known as Millennials, are truly struggling to find their way out in the big world.
There are a number of reasons for this phenomenon, which range from longer life spans to modern parenting styles. Many of these kids came out of college to an economy that was less than stellar, which made the competition for available jobs pretty stiff. So now we are faced with an entire group of young adults, who are grappling with depression, in greater numbers than previous generations.
This group is facing somewhat of an existential crisis, in an attempt to understand their purpose in life and connect with their true selves. This is not a new dilemma for burgeoning adults. College graduates often spend years trying to “find themselves” but when we see a 16% rise in mental health visits since 2000, as reported by a 2012 study from the American College Counseling Association, then we need to endeavor to find the source of the problem. A startling fact also reported, is that 44% of college students stated they had symptoms of depression and one of the primary causes of death among college students is suicide. These are heartbreaking statistics.
As I have written in several other articles, the trend towards over-parenting has not helped these young adults navigate the world on their own. Many of them have been so coddled that they have a hard time figuring out how to get their electricity turned on and sign a lease for an apartment. They have become virtually disabled by all of the parental supervision, starting way back in elementary school when their parents would complete their homework assignments. In an increasingly competitive academic environment, the pressure to succeed and excel starts early and too many parents have helped contribute to the frenzy.
Kids who have been genuinely over-parented consistently show higher levels of depression and are more likely to need anti-depressant medication than their more independent peers, according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies. It is as if the constant softening of blows throughout childhood have left these young adults ill-prepared to handle the inevitable hardships later in life.
Parenting trends are changing and hopefully future generations will not be in the same position as Millennials now find themselves. Nevertheless we have a crisis of sorts with those who do face becoming responsible adults before they feel ready to do so. Universities and their mental health services need to be prepared and keenly aware of this unique struggle and practitioners who encounter these young adults need to find the best way to help these kids learn to help themselves.
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