“The greatest challenge facing my generation today is mental health.”

The greatest challenge facing my generation today is mental health. Mental health among youth today is drastically different than it was in previous generations. Today, mental health encompasses depression, anxiety, and psychological/emotional well being. Yet, mental health also is the cause of many of today’s most prevalent issues, including suicide and school shootings. Often, people perceive mental health, suicides, and school shootings as independent of each other, yet in reality they go hand in hand. According to CDPHE, it is know that 91.5% of teens who attempted suicide had a mental health issue at the time, whether it was depression, anxiety, or an illness. As well, it was recorded that 78% of school shooters had a history of suicide attempts or suicidal ideations prior to their attack. Thus, demonstrating how mental health, suicides, and school shootings are all intertwined.

Living in Colorado, a state that had the highest increase in teen suicide rate in the U.S. since 2016, has really put mental health into perspective for me because ina my county there were 11 suicides in 2017. Whether or not I personally knew that individual or went to their school, the effects of each suicide rippled through everyone; the thought of anyone at our age feeling like taking their own life is the only option is sickening. Living in a generation obsessed with instant gratification, any issue, big or small, seems like the end of the world. Additionally, the social pressures of today’s world are entirely different than they have ever been. Through social media, anyone can post a picture accentuating their “perfect” life, when in reality this is an edited misconception that unfortunately is not regularly detected by my generation. Instead, teens use this false perception of reality as a reason for them to try and conform to society’s idea of “perfect.” However, this actually results in the compulsion of not being good enough, so ultimately depression, anxiety, and mental illnesses are the regrettable outcomes. Due to our obsession with instant gratification, teens optimistically assume that everything has to be perfect, so when this is not the case, kids in my generation have somehow created the stigma that suicide is the only option. And, even worse, kids today have not only started to take their own lives, but others as well, mostly because they are struggling internally.

At one point in time, school was considered a safe place. The thought of a child wanting to bring a gun to school and kill others and/or themselves was an inconceivable idea, until it happened. The Columbine shooting, on April 20,1999, marked the beginning of an issue that only got worse and no one was prepared for. Even with programs to enable prevention and promote mental health, school shootings happen everyday and based on the United States Secret Service 2019 study, 73% of shootings occur in high schools, thus directly affecting “Generation Z.” This means that children between the ages of 14 and 18 have the possibility of experiencing a school shooting every day, and seemingly there is no solution. Ultimately, no matter how hard we try and prevent it as long as a student is determined to hurt others, they will find a way.

At the end of the day, humans must acknowledge the fact that the rate of shootings and suicides among youth today is exponential, and there is no immediate solution. But, we can work towards a solution by starting with making mental health and psychological/emotional well being among youth a priority and by focusing on early intervention and prevention.

Hayley Payne
Colorado Springs, CO.
Sophomore, SMU • Dallas, Texas

Posted in
Mental health challenges