It’s probably no surprise to anyone that rates of teen depression in the U.S. continue to trend upward. Take a look at a teen’s social media accounts, and you will likely find expressions of disappointment and cynicism. Not in response to issues at hand, just a generally jaded outlook on life. Over the past few years I have mentored and counseled dozens of teens. Each of their stories are unique, and each faced real issues in life. (and I always encourage people to respond to depression whenever you see it.) Yet, their general malaise only worked to confirm my theory that this next generation has accepted a narrative of life that starts with pessimism, and works downward. It’s a downward spiral of despair that will only lead to severe depression.
I have led some through the typical counseling techniques designed to combat acute depression without much success. Some of the therapeutic interventions worked, but their motivation inevitably waned. Therapeutic interventions never seem to produce the kind of health that they were hoping for, and certainly not in the timeframe they were willing to invest.
However, when I suggest that a person can only achieve balance and joy in life when they make these therapeutic activities parts of their everyday life, for the rest of their lives, I have been met with dejection and dread.
At first, like all “old people,” I attributed it to the millennial’s tendency to be shallow, selfish, and shortsighted.
But there’s a big problem with lumping every person in a group together without looking for the common problem.
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. – C.S. Lewis
Many have been quick to dismiss this next generation altogether. Some have attributed their depression and anger to bad parenting, too much violence in the media, participation trophies, or vaccines; but I can’t believe that its that simple.
It seems to me that the biggest problem sighted by the individuals who I have counseled or mentored is that they don’t see a world around them that’s worth living for. They don’t see a prize worth working for. So why work for it?
They don’t see a life ahead of them that’s worth fighting for.
When we get what we’ve worked for, we can enjoy it. But if we get something we never worked for, can we enjoy that? The again, maybe that’s just the low hanging fruit. Maybe it’s not that simple.
It may be that the next generation is just as determined and hard-working as any that have come before them. It’s just that the payoff for their work has become so trivial that they’ve lost the motivation to continue.
What about the kids who won trophies because they earned them? What about the ones who have great parents…with or without vaccinations? What about those who have no interest in violence and/or sensuality in the media?
Why do we see depression in these teens too?
The loneliest moment in life is when you have just experienced that which you thought would deliver the ultimate, and it has just let you down. – Ravi Zacharias
Perhaps the issue is that we keep telling teens that they can have that “Ultimate” experience outside of an eternal God.