Vicky Kapur (From the Executive Editor's desk)
Anxiety, for all its ills, is egalitarian in nature. It doesn't distinguish between gender, societal standing, affluence, or even age. Ones who appear to be super-confident and cool on the surface are often among the most affected. Including the youth. At 12 per cent, millennials are known to have double the officially diagnosed anxiety disorder rate of baby boomers. There is reason to believe that post-millennials or Gen Z are more stressed-out than any past generation at their age. Born in 1997 or later, these digital natives shoulder the burden of demands in the real world as much as of those in the virtual one.
As part of the promise we made to our audience at the beginning of this year when we first introduced the #KTforGood campaign, to raise concerns and awareness about issues that impact us individually and collectively, we're today launching the final campaign of this year, aimed at the mental well-being of the most critical element of our future - the youth. KT's #Here4U campaign will discuss and deliberate on depression, a global menace that is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents. According to the World Health Organization, suicide is the third leading cause of death among the 15-19-year-olds.
Today's youth faces stress and anxiety at various levels. Some of it, including academic stress, generational gap, peer pressure, and relationship anxiety, is something that every generation in the past has endured. We've all had palpitations before exams, we've all been frustrated with what we thought at the time was our parents' inability to understand us, we all tried to belong, and we've all had our crushes crush our feelings. Those aren't anxiety disorders - they're the perks and pangs of growing up. Some level of stress and anxiety is, in fact, necessary as part of our natural, survival instinct. Nervousness has always been and will remain a manifestation of the emotional and physical changes that teens undergo.
But then there are factors unique to this generation, like living in a (virtual) aquarium made of a magnifying glass. The explosion of media, especially social media, exacerbates the uncertainty that teens have always had to deal with. With no geographic boundaries or time restrictions, the free flow of communication is amplifying the fear of failure, whether academic, social, or financial. What used to be aspirational yearnings - surfer abs, a surfeit of friends, pimple- and acne-free skin, 97th percentile, et al - is now seen as imperative thanks to the filters of our virtual lives which make the grass on the other side look greener.
Growing levels of alienation and loneliness among the youth is another undesirable consequence of the digital boom. Teens of today have immersed themselves in virtual interplay and are fast forgetting the art of physical interactions, leading to desensitisation of some emotions while making some others hypersensitive. The modern tools of engagement have resulted in delivering a disengaged generation. The aspects that were thought to bring about happiness have become some of the biggest causes of stress among those who can't achieve or afford them.
While the rising level of anxiety among youth hasn't reached epidemic proportions (yet), a marked increase in the number of stress-related health ailments and even suicide cases among teenagers - including here in the UAE - is enough for society at large to take cognisance and corrective action to save this generation from falling prey to dejection, desolation, and desperation.
Our latest campaign invites students, parents, academicians, and caregivers to raise awareness and offer solutions, to share their stories and lessons learnt, to participate in any way you can to together help fight this scourge. While imbibing all the positivity of the 'always-on' modern lifestyle, let's revisit some of the advantages of the 'old' way of living, like talking out issues. Let's talk. Face-to-face and not app-to-app. Let's discuss the values of life and the value of life, something that seems to be lost in the daily deluge of emotional outbursts on social media. KT's #Here4U.