World Mental Health Day: Black Millennials Speak Out On Depression
Millennials in the U.S. often get a reputation for being entitled, lazy and less-cultured than prior generations. Regardless of the fact that millennials are the most educated generation and are paid significantly less than the generations before them, older generations have clung to the idea that millennials are whiney and ungrateful. This breeds a culture that is dismissive towards the mental health of millennials.
Millennials are making less money and have less free-time, so, it’s no wonder why depression is on the rise for our generation. Couple that with being black in America during these tumultuous times, the 24/7 news and media cycle, and you have a recipe for mental and emotional exhaustion and trauma.
For World Mental Health Day, we asked four black millennials this question:
Why do you think depression is on the rise for millennials and what kind of support do you think millennials are in need of?
Below are their responses.
“I think depression is on the rise for millennials because we’re a generation that has had to take on a lot of trauma from past generations. We have to live up to the standards of capitalism and we have to navigate the United States and the post-Bush era’s economic recession. Not only do we take these traumas on, but we’ve also become aware of them via the Internet and social media. The fact that being ‘woke’ is something cool and almost mainstream shows that we’re a generation that is aware of many systems of oppression. Awareness is only a small part of it. I’m a black, Latina born in the United States, raised in the Dominican Republic, and so I personally live in many intersections.
I was a first generation college student and by the time I graduated I thought that I had done everything right, everything I needed to achieve the myth of the “American Dream”. I learned that that dream is a lie. It takes more than hard work to get ahead in this country especially at the time when I graduated in 2012. I had been suffering with depression and anxiety but didn’t even realize it until maybe several years ago when my doctor told me I had symptoms of anxiety. So a combination of different forms of oppression, poverty and the competitiveness of today are things that probably has led to depression being on the rise for us. Those things were what brought me to the brink of having an emotional breakdown. Not to mention other key things like the foods that we’re eating and the damages happening to la madre tierra. The environment affects us and we’re like the hyper-aware generation that’s taking in so much information all the time (which isn’t always good).
I think we have found support in many ways, for example via the internet with hashtags like the one I started #MyAnxietyLooksLike and also #MyDepressionLooksLike.
I don’t think that social media is enough, at least not for me. I personally need to be able to connect in person and meet people in person who can help us heal or are going through similar journeys. Living in New York City, building a community for that can seem difficult because there’s just so much going on and friendships truly come and go, but it is possible. Still, I know that building in person is what works for me. For others who don’t have that ability either physically or socially, there are ways to create Internet spaces that are supportive without the vulnerability that we’re exposed to on Twitter. Mental health activist Dior Vargas‘ project on POC and Mental Illness is something that I felt was powerful and necessary to get the conversation going among POC. In terms of support, even something like a monthly Skype call with likeminded people can help.
Furthermore, the support really needs to be systemic. For example, we need to see action taken regarding #BlackLivesMatter. On a day like today, we must remember that decolonization and an undoing of capitalism and the pressures on millennials to compete in order to survive is crucial to our existence as a society, and to our mental health.”