I was having a casual conversation with my youngest daughter who will graduate from university next summer. Gradually, the chat moved from the casual to the deep as we began contrasting life pressures on her Millennial Generation compared to my Baby Boomers one.
We talked about the increasing propensity these days for mental health issues. We shared the view that the increase is partly due to significant improvements in diagnosis techniques over the last 50 years or so and therefore, what might have previously been suppressed, un-diagnosed, and passed off as ‘feeling low’, is now more accurately identified and given a worrying label.
My daughter believed that the Millennials deal with much more complex life issues than my generation ever did. As a result, their exposure does make them more likely to suffer anxiety or panic attacks, depression, and so on. My default position is to disagree and argue that we too had complex enough issues to deal with, thank you very much! The conversation was at risk of going down the dogmatic route of “mine is worse than yours” or, “we are more robust than you” type of argument.
However, she pointed out the harrowing stuff available on the internet these days, the very realistic and extremely violent war games; the random multiple shootings at schools, nightclubs and holiday camps, often by fellow students or club goers; and the harrowing execution scenes by extremist organisations such as ISIS, where a determined web surfer can find and view in dark corners of the Internet.
24-hour news channels and social media viral spread of unpleasant material provide further shocking imagery that is bound to have an impact on the young and impressionable. Hell, it has an impact on me personally and I am neither young, nor impressionable. Heinous acts have always been committed in the past against humanity by forgotten characters to the more chronicled despicable ones such as Genghis Khan, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot and others. However, their evil deeds were subsequently recorded by historians with imagery confined to faded pictures or grainy black & white films, or stacks of skulls and bones that carry no perceptible identities. These days however, such acts are often captured vividly by news media or smart phone holders, then immediately shared with the rest of the world. For example, who would ever forget the harrowing scenes of Nine Eleven?
Measured by any standards, I have had a tough and rough youth but, I would rather have my own experience of growing up than what the Millennial are currently experiencing. It is said that if a random group of people were to each write their worst complaint about life and place it in a bowl with a view to swap it with someone else’s problem, most people would opt to revert to their own.
My daughter and I agreed on one positive point to attribute to the current generation. Exposure to a more violent and nasty world will affect people with varying degrees of intensity but, it also makes the less vulnerable tougher, stronger and more capable of coping with life as we know it today. In other words, there is some truth in the cliché: what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. For their and future of humanity’s sake, I truly hope so…