When I was asked this question this spring, I of course said no. This happened at a time when young people were almost daily accused of the spread of coronavirus. The negative response was an instinctive reaction. But is there really something wrong with young people? They go to therapy more and more. And yes, in the old days, people rolled up their sleeves and took action when the country faced a crisis.
So, our generation already knows that you can go to therapy. We know that there’s an alternative to taking it out on your family when you’re feeling bad and then again, to those more irrevocable solutions. However, mental health symptoms among students have really increased throughout the 2000s. Reasons can be found in the development of education policy, climate anxiety and the economy, which more often than not has been unstable in our lifetime. Faith in the future will not come from nowhere, which is why we have very little of it. The COVID-19 crisis, however, has made us very passive. The most responsible thing you can do is to sit at home for months on end and order food to the door whenever you can afford it.
Of course there are also signs that young people are actually doing better. Such signs include, for example, reduced binge drinking and smoking, improved road safety among young people and reduced juvenile crime in this millennium.
But I’ve thought about the question again. If there’s always something wrong with young people – one generation after another – maybe there’s also something wrong with our generation. Just as there’s something wrong with the previous generation who has put their youth behind them.
So what does it actually mean that there’s something wrong with young people? From what I can gather, there’s something wrong with us if we don’t function as productive members of society. There’s something wrong with us if we’re feeling bad. There’s something wrong with us if we demand a better livelihood, a more sustainable society or freedom to grow and have growing pains. If that’s the case, and there’s concern about the fact that there’s something wrong with young people, then one essential question has not yet been asked.
Why is there such effort to make it so that there is something wrong with young people?
Younger and younger people are required flawless performance in a continuous flow. Cuts are made to their livelihoods, their support networks are taken away from them and climate concerns are made fun of. All that remains is falling walls, eating noodle soup three days in a row, long queues to expensive therapy and being criticised for the need for human contact and wanting to belong. For a long time now, education policy, social policy and, now at the time of the pandemic, COVID-19 policy have built a society that produces exactly the kind of young people who simply cannot meet the demands put on them.
A finger of blame points at young people. Maybe it should point at the mirror.