We are seeing unprecedented numbers of youth suicides, overdoses are at epidemic levels. There is more depression and anxiety than ever before especially among adolescents and so many school shootings that we haven’t even finished grieving the last when the next one happens.
More than anything we need to understand that the increase in mental illness and addiction is not the result of a generation being “weak” or “lazy.” There is a root cause and that’s where we need to focus.
There is more polarization, less tolerance, and more loneliness
We are all so busy we don’t even take time out to be there for our friend yet we wonder why no one is here when we hurt or need support.
Standardized testing in our education system and the focus on core academics has not fostered creativity or innovation. Years ago, we saw documentary after documentary about how other cultures were pushing their children academically and setting unrealistically high standards and for some reason we thought we needed to do this, too. We’re still educating as an industrialized nation instead of one that values innovation.
Parents are over parenting often doing everything for their kids, further robbing them of the opportunity to learn (everyone in our generation is guilty of this to some degree). Neighbors don’t know each other as well, children don’t play outside as much, families are not growing up together in the same town. Add to that, youth are spending 45% less face time with their friends than the previous generation. Leaving them with fewer experiences from which to learn and build coping skills.
The lack of face to face connection is hurting us. It’s not just social media or mobile phones, computers, or bullying. The influx of technology has changed us. In some ways good and in other ways bad. Strangely, it’s isolated us more. And the speed with which technology evolves is making it more difficult for our culture to adjust. We’ve not adjusted. I don’t think that technology is all bad either.
The pendulum will swing back
Why? Because we crave love and connection. It is the core of human existence.
We have to recognize that the people we are losing, the deep feelers, are needed in our culture to help us find that balance. We have to recognize our role in the process of re-establishing those connections and saving a generation we are losing in record numbers.
Reconnecting in the digital age isn’t going to be the result of one person’s suggestion or effort. Parents, communities, faith leaders, criminal justice, politicians, first responders, healthcare systems, nonprofits, educators, teens and young adults all have to do their part.
Our culture has been sicker. So this is not hopeless and I feel the tide turning already. We start by making more time for each other.