Are Millennials the Crazy Ones … Or Is It Their Elders?

Some troubling statistics on the mental health of millennials:

A 2016 UK survey found that, since 1990, rates of depression and anxiety among the young have increased by 70%, while the American Counseling Association has reported a “rising tide of personality disorders among millennials.”

…In 2014, a survey of 100,000 college students at 53 U.S. campuses by the American College Health Association found that 84% of U.S. students feel unable to cope, while more than half experience overwhelming anxiety.

Are young people becoming less sane, or are their elders more willing to quickly label them insane? And is that labeling, itself, perhaps part of the problem?

Think about it. Everything now is clinical. If your mood suddenly changes, you’re bipolar. If you’re even slightly unmotivated, inattentive or even lazy, you’re automatically and always “ADD.” If you’re an unruly child, you’re automatically and always “oppositional defiant disorder.” If you’re even a little bit shy, you’re automatically and always on the “autism spectrum.” Everything — absolutely everything — is clinical. When you go to psychiatry or psychotherapy school, you’re told that the APA’s Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is the “bible” for mental health professionals. Whether most people know it or not, the DSM-5 is now the bible for all of society.

I’m a mental health professional. I won’t deny that real problems exist. But problems are supposed to be deviations from the normal, the reasonable or the to-be-expected. Problems are not the absence of impossibly perfect happiness every minute of your life. But we’re so quick to rush and label things as problems and pathologies that maybe we’re instilling a lot of unnecessary and irrational anxiety not only in ourselves, but in the up and coming generation who have been relentlessly exposed to these labels.

A byproduct of such fear has been the growth of the “safe space,” a safe-haven for minority groups and distressed students from what they perceive as threats within campus life. Safe spaces contain comforting objects that evoke childhood — bean bags, soothing music, Play-Doh, coloring books. The spaces often forbid entry to straight white men or political opponents.

Keep in mind that it’s the choice of academic officials to have these “safe spaces.” Their choice to initiate such ridiculous policies says less about the young people themselves than it does about the mentality of the adults choosing to create them. Yes, there are overwhelmingly leftist/Democratic biases on all college campuses. We all know that. But the problem runs even deeper. Adults who manage and teach at America’s institutions of higher learning appear to believe that young people age 18-22 are irreparably fragile, and that they cannot be expected to handle their emotions without coloring books or instant counseling.

When I first trained as a therapist in the 1980s and early 1990s, we learned about the value of instant counseling for things like the aftermath of a shooting, an airplane crash, the death of an employee in the workplace, and the like. While such services appeared to benefit some more than others, nobody ever dreamed that we’d be offering such emergency intervention for things like the aftermath of a presidential election, or the mere presence on campus of a speaker with whom you disagree. This is insanity, for sure, but it’s enabled insanity. I don’t believe that the majority of people in any age group are as out of their minds as the teachers and administrators in academia who administer these policies. If they were, society would be in a state of complete chaos and collapse already. I don’t even assume all of the educators and administrators at universities are that crazy. The problem is fear: They’re afraid of offending someone in that irrational, politically correct minority who actually is crazy (and sometimes even downright evil). That’s the problem in today’s world: irrational fear of being seen as “mean” or otherwise incorrect. The fear itself is the pathology.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has found:

Children in full-time day care were close to three times more likely to show behavior problems than those cared for by their mothers at home.

The more time in child care of any kind or quality, the more aggressive the child.

The result is young people who, a decade and a half after daycare, scream at the parent/State for not protecting them sufficiently. It is no coincidence that “safe spaces” resemble daycare centers.

Unfortunately, “safe spaces” enforce the distressed person’s fear of the world, trapping them in their original trauma within a psychological frame of permanent and inescapable victimhood.

I won’t go so far as to blame day care for the problem. The problem is the kind of intellectual and psychological atmosphere adults create for their children, whether at school, day care or in the home. If the message is consistently conveyed to children that feelings are automatically and always equivalent to truth, then the child will inevitably grow into a young adult with serious emotional issues. Why? Because emotions are not necessarily truth, and to place an undue confidence in your emotions leads you into an irrational and psychologically crippling existence.

The good news is that emotional issues are fixable, or at least manageable, in most people. The younger one’s age, the truer this is. If people in the educational and mental health fields in particular came to better understand that reasoning and rational, objective thinking are the alternative to a psyche where emotions run everything, then we’d have much less of a perceived “need” for things like safe spaces and emergency counseling over the fact that somebody in the world disagrees with you on politics or transgender toilets. Even more, if adults in positions of authority stopped caring about being so politically correct, they would not create a civilization so enmeshed in fear that we’re literally handing out coloring books to college students when their feelings get hurt by Donald Trump’s desire to cut the EPA or increase defense spending.

It really does not have to be all that complicated. I still believe America’s population — young and old — is much more salvageable than many of us assume. It’s the universities and schools I question. And it’s the neurotic fear in so many who run them that’s bringing us all down to the level of the insane.

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