A recent seven-year mental health report showed a rising tide of psychological distress among young Australians. A quarter of young people are experiencing psychological distress, women double the frequency of men. We have also noted this trend over the last 12 months on my frontline, with a significant spike in psychological and physical issues in late teen-early 20’s white- and blue-collar employee health assessments.
Similar trends exist in Europe and North America. Though identifying contemporary stressors such as social media, climate change, job insecurity, debt and lack of social support etc, experts felt these issues alone did not explain this trend. One well known authority was quoted “I think we’re seeing the scaffolding fall away and become much more fragile” in young people.
A visiting academic from the US recently presented research suggesting that a major factor is the way in which generation Z (born post mid-90s) has been sheltered from risk by parents. This has unfortunately coincided with the rise in social media since 2004. He summarised this ‘terrible idea’ with the prevalent cultural notion “whatever does not kill you makes you weaker” (not stronger).
Increasing rates of anxiety and depression amongst young people are characterised by common ‘faulty-thinking’ processes such as catastrophising, black-and-white thinking, jumping to conclusions, emotional reasoning (what you feel must be true), and mental filtering (leaving out the good and focusing on the bad) etc.
This intellectual fragility is now manifest on tertiary educational campuses with hair-trigger “call out cultures’’, seriously restricting respectful discussions and debates. Barack Obama recently criticised a similar “cancel culture”. He stated that “The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws”, while addressing the current toxic climate of individual ostracism and trolling.
Fragility amongst young people is also flowing into the workplace, with high levels of anxiety and difficulty even accepting constructive feedback. This has led to “a drop in trust, a rise in fear, and a drop in cooperation” amongst employees.
Against this backdrop how refreshing our walk-through Ephesians has been. All the complexities of life that Paul equally had to confront, reconciled through the simplicity of God’s grace through Christ. I especially love The Message introduction page and quote “the energy of reconciliation is the dynamo at the heart of the universe”, and the imperative that we each contribute to God’s “long range plan in which everything would be bought together and summed up in Him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth” (Msg Eph 1:10).