Tag Archive: youth

  1. The risk of over-simplifying mental health

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    In class, someone straightens their pencil and paper and notes. “I’m so OCD,” they say. Their fellow classmate holds their tongue, knowing their diagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder leads to violent, intrusive thoughts. Thoughts that make them tap their pencil six times before using it and always click the light switch twice before they can leave the room.

    As members of Generation Z have grown older, transitioning into young adulthood, many have drawn attention to the stigmatization of mental illnesses and the importance of addressing and caring for one’s mental health.

    It is this generation that has projected the discussion of mental health discussion onto a much larger public stage of social media and representation in news than in previous decades. More open conversations and resources have become available in schools and open conversations between students and families have become more common.

    The lessening stigma of discussing mental illnesses, misrepresentation in media and overall lack of proper education has led to a dangerous trend in self-diagnosing.

    “When you self-diagnose, you are essentially assuming that you know the subtleties that diagnosis constitutes,” Dr. Srini Pillay wrote in Psychology Today.

    “The media does not represent the complexity of mental illness in general. There’s this sense that it’s just a one-name-fits-everybody, or one-title-fits-everybody,” Nikki Marks, a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder told U.S News

    Our generation is thus prone to self-diagnose mental illnesses. The terms depression or OCD is often floated around casually by high school students.

    The harm in these phrases stems from a misunderstanding of the illness and the symptoms and behaviors that accompany it. The sadness that stems from a relationship breakup or bad weather greatly differs from the intense fatigue and potential suicidal thoughts that are symptoms of depression, yet they are convoluted using this definition of the word depressed. Depression implies that the individual is “feelings of severe despondency and dejection”.

    A tendency for being organized and neat is exactly that, neatness. Having OCD can mean intrusive thoughts about violence that cause someone to repeat actions in patterns or numbers.

    With rising national and global issues, civil rights movements and growing up in the age of social media and technology, it’s no surprise that Gen Z faces unusually high reports of stress and depression so it may not always be an exaggeration when someone makes a claim of certain mental illnesses.

    Access to proper mental health care and treatment remains difficult for a large portion of Americans. Knowing this, people may have a mental illness, suffer the symptoms and talk about it but are not officially diagnosed, yet it is very real.

    “For people with serious mental illness, you actually have better access to care if you have Medi-Cal than commercial insurance.” Dr. Tom Insel, a psychiatrist who serves as chief adviser to California Governor Gavin Newsom, said at the National Institute of Mental Health.

    Almost a quarter (22.3%) of all adults with a mental illness reported that they were not able to receive the treatment they needed, according to data reported by Mental Health America.

    An important distinction is that between mental health and mental illnesses, which can go hand-in-hand but are not the same. Mental health refers to one’s mental/emotional well-being and should be taken as seriously as physical health as the two make up our overall health. Being stressed, insecure, or overwhelmed can lead to bad mental health, and a person’s mental health fluctuates constantly.

    However mental illnesses, according to the American Psychiatric Association, “refer collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders — health conditions involving Significant changes in thinking, emotion and/or behavior” and can also be genetically passed on.

    With this growing normalization of mental health issues and illnesses also come generalizations.

    High school students, at times, associate mood changes to having a sentitude of what it is to be bipolar.

    This can lead to the convolution of a debilitating disorder with a humorous condition.

    Generalizing behaviors of mental illnesses can lead to a sense of invalidation for those living with them.

    While symptoms vary from person to person, those who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder can go through manic episodes in which they can become delusional, and then fall into depressive episodes which are entirely debilitating.

    Commonly hearing people describing normal human tendencies or behaviors as symptoms of an illness undervalues the mental and physical struggles that typically accompany such diagnoses. The generalization of very complex illnesses that can manifest and a large variety of behaviors and feelings, into common actions of being sad or nervous also shows a still great misunderstanding of what mental illnesses are and how they function.

    Generation Z must be ready to change this aspect of how we consider mental health. To do so, schools should implement mental health programs that educate students on these topics into their wellness curriculums. Influencers, activists and the general public should not only advocate for mental health awareness and education through social media platforms. Individuals should work to educate their peers and friends on why generalization and self-diagnoses can be harmful, and teach the truth about mental health issues.

    We can work together to both reduce the stigma around mental health and mental illnesses and provide an accurate education on the complexities of mental illness.

  2. How abortion clinic defenders are using TikTok in the fight for reproductive rights

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    Over the past few months, videos of young women standing up to pro-life protesters outside an abortion clinic have circulated the ever-popular social media platform, TikTok. Through these numerous 15-60 second clips, they illustrate the daily scene outside the clinic to thousands of viewers.

    Nineteen-year-olds Jaicie Smallwood and Hannah Bauerle of pro-choice group Charlotte for Choice, have helped lead the use of TikTok to document their experiences as clinic defenders at abortion clinic in Charlotte, N.C. The job of clinic defenders is to distract pro-life protesters in order to protect clinic patients from harassment. In depicting the conflicts between obstructive anti-abortion protestors and pro-choice clinic defenders that occur daily in front of clinics, they have ignited a conversation about reproductive rights and youth among the newest generation, Gen Z.

    “We are normally at the property line of the clinic taking any of the heat from the anti-choice protestors and pointing people into the clinic,” said Bauerle. “We also let [the patients] know that the Anti’s are not associated with the clinic and that they do not have to speak with them if they do not want to.”

    Pro-life protesters, who oppose the clinics on the basis of the abortion procedures they provide, have long staked out on the perimeter of abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood centers. These groups, which often include Christians and other religious groups, argue that life begins at conception, which is largely why they consider ending a pregnancy to be immoral.

    Smallwood said these anti-choice protestors routinely “park an RV right out front loaded with an ultrasound machine and lots of model babies at various weeks.” They have also used a large speaker to pipe their voices to the back of the clinic.

    The Charlotte-area clinic where Smallwood and Bauerle volunteer outside of offers services for pregnant women, such as pregnancy testing and surgical abortions.

    The clinic is “extremely accessible which makes [it] so important for many people, ” said Bauerle.

    The number of abortion clinics in the United States continues to dwindle each year, according to the Guttmacher Institute. States like Mississippi and Missouri now only have one clinic that offers end-of-pregnancy operations, making it extremely difficult for women of these states to safely access these procedures.

    Under the Trump administration’s watch, there has been a push for states to pass laws limiting the accessibility and availability of abortions. Part of their goal is to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that established a woman’s right to choose. Recently, 9 states have drafted restrictive abortion legislation, creating barriers for women to safely undergo the procedure. While some of these bans, from Georgia and Tennessee, have been blocked by federal judges and are not yet in effect, others seek to be challenged and eventually arrive at the highest court in the land.

    The issue of access to birth control services has remained a timely issue through the pandemic. The outcome of the 2020 presidential election will dictate the future of reproductive rights. Democratic candidate Joe Biden has vowed to persevere a woman’s right to choose, while President Donald Trump has expressed his continued interest in overturning Roe v. Wade.

    While the abortion debate has persisted for decades, social media activism adds a new element to the mix.

    “I was the first Gen-Z volunteer and therefore the most experienced with TikTok,” says Baurle. “I posted a few videos when I started defending just to document the craziness.”

    These videos, and the videos from other clinic defenders, have reached thousands of personalized Tiktok feeds through algorithms and user sharing. Garnering millions of views, the TikToks have shed light on the opposition patients face and the role clinic defenders play in ensuring their safety.

    “I think we all underestimated the need for these types of videos,” Bauerle says.

    Although these TikToks are often humorous, with the clinic defenders incorporating TikTok trends in their videos, Smallwood advises viewers to look beyond the initial comic relief they may provide, and to contemplate their underlying purpose.

    “This is very real for a number of people,” she said.

    To continue their fight for reproductive rights and the safety of the patients, Bauerle said the next step is education about birth control and reproductive rights.

    “We are putting together book clubs and “social media task forces” to put petitions out there, provide helpful resources, and keep the conversation about abortion going,” says Smallwood.

    The virality of TikTok has allowed Gen-Z activists to voice their opinions to a global audience. An app once solely dedicated to dances and comedic sketches has now begun to ignite social change within younger generations.

    “TikTok was a catalyst to a much bigger movement and I can’t wait to see where it goes,” says Bauerle.

    One hashtag used by the clinic defenders, #christok — a play on words in reference to the name of a frequent pro-life protests that occur the clinic — has reached over 32 million views.