TURNING TABOO INTO AWARENESS: GEN Z STYLE
Generation Zers and its culminating ways to render taboos regarding mental health
“The purer your heart is, the whiter your soul will be”, my mother exclaimed as she was cooking for the whole family in intervals of bickers with my father. She then continued to tell me about the dark spots we get in our hearts when we sin turning our hearts into a piece of heart-shaped coal that could parish the whiteness of your soul in a matter of seconds. As a child, the idea of having a dark soul and spots on my heart petrified me. In the growing stage, situations rendered the idea of a dark soul, eventually making everyone around me have unfillable spots in their hearts. The interpretation of such notions as a child made me conclude that you should feel guilty and have a sense of shame about something bad, which is the notion of morality in all societies. But the formation of our society has labelled innumerable subjects a taboo that people who face such labels are the target of shame.
Gladly, that is not the case with Generation Zers who are paving ways for struggles regarding mental health, which were labelled as a taboo in the past and turning tables through spreading awareness about the topic on social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and even TikTok. Gen Z aids in social media platforms accepting mental health issues and struggles that the previous generation failed to do. Many of these young blood has sought out to defend mental health struggles as they themselves face condescending remarks from society for their mental struggles.
It is an undeniable fact that mental health was always taken for granted during the boomer times. Every person had to suppress their struggles to not portray themselves as weak and drown themselves in a sense of guilt and shame, because “Oh! If society finds out, they will cast you away!” Though Generation Zers has been discussing mental illness on social media platforms; as a Research centre reported in 2018, one in every three teenagers from the age of 13 to 17 years old regularly post about their feelings on social media. This is highly the case with TikTok, as 60% of its users are teenagers of similar ages. But the incisive armoury that the new generation has cultivated through unlikely platforms such as TikTok (a popular video-sharing platform) has made a huge impact on the masses. Many mental health advocates have affirmed the massive impact that such platforms bring about to individuals who are struggling with psychological symptoms and are too ashamed of reaching out to a therapist. These advocates not only proclaimed that TikTok is making an impact but turned to the platform themselves to spread awareness about mental health issues in a certified manner. But what makes Gen Z so bold to drive the shift of labels from a taboo to awareness?
Psychologists and researchers have established this to be part of the profound change that has been seen in the past few years regarding mental health issues. Many individuals post about traumas and mental health in form of their experiences to cultivate awareness rather than shutting themselves down like previous generations.
It is also undeniable that individuals taking part in this trend are, most of the time, finding themselves having fun with their mental struggles and discussing them in a light-hearted manner. But then again, it has to be noted that such a matter can never be taken lightly. The fact that people are discussing such issues on the internet and making it more of awareness rather than shame is a growing phenomenon that in itself exhibits how our society has matured regarding such issues. No doubt that Generation Zers have been labelled as ‘tough kids’ who don’t cry ever.
But how does the generation get its strength to overcome such hardships, like mental health issues, and still make it a trend towards normality rather than a subject of taboo?
Psychologist Jerome Lettvin states that individuals around us, like our peers and politicians, are the ones who have a significant impact on how we view ourselves. Someone who lacks confidence and is depressed, on their way to becoming an adult, would feel like a failure if their parents and family constantly portray them as ‘weak kids’ or ‘losers’. Through the remarks and feedback that they receive regarding themselves from people around them, people learn what they are capable of or not. Many teenagers find themselves being told by their parents that they need to “suck it up” or “stop being pathetic” in regards to their mental health struggles. This hence leads to the development of a certain view of themselves as being ‘useless’. On the other hand, if the criticism comes from peers and teachers, such individuals find themselves unable to trust other people’s feedback regarding their emotions. This might result in them building a wall around themselves that they will never open to the public again. Though this is a widespread phenomenon that affects several teenagers in general, it is not something that affects everyone who has gone through such experiences. Understandably, parents would feel worried when they see their kids struggling with mental health issues because it could lead them to depression and suicide. But the truth is that mental health issues are natural. Everyone has their ups and downs, and if you are feeling down, even for just a moment, you should not be afraid to go to your friends or family and talk about it.
There is no shame in being human, and though we might all have our own difficulties like mental health problems; we should learn how to deal with them healthily by seeking out help from professionals who can help us overcome these difficulties. It is never too late to seek help. And maybe, Generation Zers has made social media platforms such as TikTok a gateway, a friend, a family who understands their struggles, supports them through it, and never criticises what they are going through. Gen Z is bucking up this trend of supporting each other through struggling times and TikTok has become obvious heaven for them. Though it is ironic that social media was always portrayed as the mischievous devil which worsens all problems, especially mental health, but the space that Generation Zers has created in supporting mental health issues rather than labelling them as taboo is more appreciable than ever. Users on the app TikTok are rapidly obtaining viewers while talking about mental health issues such as OCD, panic attacks and depression whilst enjoying a few TikTok dance moves. Even therapists have grasped the idea of awareness about mental health through fun and attractive ways by accumulating to the needs and trends of the new generation, in this case, making “Therapy TikToks”. Although these videos do not provide a full spectrum of physical therapy but do raise awareness and bring about the problems that need to be addressed.
According to experts like psychiatrist Matthew Rusinek, those who suffer from mental health problems never die but live on within the form of memories of their struggles. And Generation Z, whilst facing such hardships wanted to bring change.
Although some psychologists like B Janet Hibbs, believe that millennials were the first ones to de-stigmatise discussions regarding mental health. She said in an interview that Millenials have been the trailblazers in stating to the opposite generations that they’d sustained what might be named as a systemic betrayal, of “work hard, play hard” thinking of it as the only solution which will “keep you fine”, a fashion she additionally sees manifesting in Gen Z.
But there are always two sides to a coin. As some psychologists are in favour of the whole idea of expressing mental health issues through such means, others think of it as a professional risk around such vocalisation. Since the vocalisation has only cracked the entertainment industry, some fear that they might be outcasted if their workplaces found out about their mental health issues or compromise their viability as a job candidate, even stigmatising them as viable to mental health issues.
However, it is more of a pleasant change to many individuals who think of it as helping and being helped by other creators. And hopefully more social media platforms become a catalyst for such subjects to bring change to the world. As Dave Willis said:
“DON’T USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO IMPRESS PEOPLE; RATHER USE IT TO IMPACT PEOPLE”
And I think Generation Zers are the ones impacting all of us through their change.