Studies Show Depression Rates Rising in Millennials

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    Millennials are known to be changing the face of many aspects of American life from the labor workforce where millennials now outnumber Generation X to the wedding industry where millennials are 80% happy or neutral with lab grown diamonds. Yet, it seems that millennials are now also changing the face of another aspect of many American lives: depression.

    In the United States, 20 million Americans suffer from depression. And according to college counselors across the country, those numbers are rising particularly among college students.

    A 2016 survey conducted by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute found that approximately 12% of college freshmen report being frequently depressed. Further data reported by 139 institutions shows that of those students who sought help for their depression 33.2% had considered suicide and 26% had intentionally harmed themselves.

    “This generation has grown up with instant access via the internet to everything,” said Judith Green, director of Ramapo College’s Center for Health and Counseling Services, to NBC News. “This has led to challenges with frustration tolerance and delaying gratification.” Green noted that millennials are especially vulnerable to the stress of college life because they have a tendency to internalize negative emotions.

    Millennials are also the first generation, she said, that won’t do as well financially as their parents. “Students are working so much more to contribute and pay for college. Seniors don’t have jobs lined up [after graduation] yet.”

    While 92% of working Americans say vacation time is important and utilize that time to destress, many millennials don’t have that luxury. In search of financial success and under pressure, college students often cram as much work and studying into their days as they can.

    Fortunately, while millennials may be suffering from greater rates of depression, they are also working to combat stress and stigma on campus. In the United States, 75% of renters own pets according to a survey conducted by Apartments.com and many colleges across America are using the comfort these pets provide to their advantage. Therapy dogs are becoming increasingly popular on American college campuses during finals and midterm weeks to reduce anxiety among students.

    Social media is also being used in order to combat the stigma of depression and anxiety. According to the Huffington Post, African Americans are 10% more likely to suffer from psychological stress than those who are white, non-Hispanic. To encourage dialogue about mental health among black millennials, Elyse Fox, Kirsty Latoya, and Nay Clarke have started their own personal movements online to combat the shame associated with mental illness.

    Elyse Fox, 27, posted a film to Vimeo in December 2016 entitled “Conversations With Friends,” a short documentary about the trials of her depression. “The film was like my coming out party for depression — to let my friends know I know I’ve been a little weird lately but this is why,” Fox said to Huffington Post.

    The film spoke to other young women who commented on the film with their own stories of mental illness. “I saw a lot of the girls had the same issues,” Fox said. “… I wanted to create something in real life for girls who are sad and don’t know what’s going in their head; or do know what’s going on their head or just need a friend with depression.” Fox was true to her word and in February she founded the Sad Girls Club, a community for young women with depression in New York City.

    In London, Kirsty Latoya, 25, has been expressing her depression in the form of digital artwork, which she has been sharing online. Her most popular work has received over 1,000 likes.

    After her mom passed away in March, Latoya expressed difficulty acknowledging her depression because of the skepticism surrounding mental illness in her Caribbean culture.

    “The views on mental health in my community are different,” she said to Huffington Post. “Sometimes in Caribbean culture, it’s not regarded as an actual illness. You’re brought up to be strong and some parents show no weakness so you aim to replicate that. This deterred me from accessing the level of support I needed when I was younger.”

    Nay Clarke, 20, has shared similar experiences with the stigma of schizophrenia. A social media marketer, Clarke had appeared on his friend’s YouTube series entitled “Car Convos” targeted toward millennials. On the episode, Clarke discussed the challenges and stereotypes regarding those with schizophrenia.

    “Just because I got diagnosed with schizophrenia,” Clarke told Huffington Post, “does not mean it’s totally uncontrollable and I’m going to go out and kill 10 people like what they portray it to be like in the movies.”

    Dr. Candice Nicole, a counselor of black millennials, says her patients regularly bring up this sense of reluctance to discuss mental illness in black communities. “People do not believe them,” she said. “It is unfortunate, but black pain and suffering is often minimized or ignored.”

    But millennials are refusing to be ignored. Like Fox, Latoya, and Clarke, Dr. Nicole says that millennials are beginning to make movements to normalize dialogue around mental health.

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