It’s not always us versus them, but with mental health, sometimes it feels that way.
Note: Throughout this article, I will be using the word “adult” as an easier way to signify the older generation in our lives (the parents, teachers, bosses, etc). I know we’re all adults—or will be very soon—but sometimes it’s difficult to remember that as we take steps into the “real world” (Especially when it comes to dealing with our mental health).
Our society often pits the younger generations against older ones, which makes it hard to find common ground on a myriad of issues; one of the big ones being mental health. Gen Z is very open about their mental battles and how it affects their lives, while Gen X was taught to hide their emotions, and power through the pain. When trying to talk to members of Gen X about mental health, we often receive responses like, “It’s not that bad you’re just being dramatic” or “Depression isn’t real you just need some sun”.
This is why our generation is so uncomfortable going to adults with our problems.
They lived through a different time, filled with their own hardships (protests, wars, gender roles, etc.) so it's easy for them to see the things we're going through and dismiss it. But whether it was intentional or not, their dismissal—especially with our mental health, fucked with our perception of the world (and ourselves).
When I was a preteen, I was bullied by an adult. She was the owner of a campground my family seasonally camped at. When there was some drama between her daughter and me, she started to give me dirty looks and side glances. All this from a woman four times my age—completely inappropriate. She even spread rumors about me, telling other parents I was shit-talking their kids, which wasn’t true.
This woman had once been like a second mom to me, but she took the “power” she believed she possessed and used it to break me down. She made me feel like I was the worst person to walk the planet. I was only twelve and felt like I had committed a crime against humanity. This situation, later diagnosed as trauma by my therapist, made me feel a great deal of sadness, anxiety, and self-doubt. The “power” she thought she had spread far and wide. Everyone was afraid to stand up to her toxic behavior, including other adults. I began to distrust adults until I met my favorite teacher—and now mentor.
My senior year of high school was a little rough. I didn’t know where I wanted to go to college, and I couldn’t find common ground with my parents. I was growing up and decided that I knew everything (if I only knew then). I used to think I should be able to stay out all night and hang out with whomever I wanted. I thought my parents' “rules” were bullshit and didn’t stop to consider the possibility they were just looking out for me.
One morning, after a fight with my mom, I went to school crying. Afraid it was a fight we were never gonna come back from, I went directly to my mentor’s classroom and explained everything.
She gave me a space to vent and let out all my emotions. During our conversation, she assured me that things were going to be okay, and she gave me tips to solve the situation.
My teacher had actively gone out of her way to create a safe environment where all her students felt comfortable coming to her with anything. From regularly asking her students about their lives, to remind us we weren’t alone, she worked hard to make us feel seen and that shit paid off. What’s amazing is that even now in my junior year of college, she still treats me the same. It sucks that her level of kindness isn’t the standard for adults. It’s like the older we get, the less people seem to care about the way we feel, and expect us to just bottle things up and keep it pushing.
"But that was high school, the real world is a different ball game. In the real world, we don't always have "adults'' who watch our backs, or care about and respect the causes we stand for. It's not all of them but it's enough where we're forced to feel like it's US versus THEM.
The guidance adults offer can be life-changing. I know it was for me. To this day, that teacher and I still talk regularly. Not once has she shot me down or told me I wasn’t strong enough to do something.
If you struggle to trust adults, you aren’t alone, but keep an open mind. Learn to seek out adults who share your values. At the end of the day, we are young. It is important for us to be able to trust adults and learn to assert ourselves. We need to find our voices in places where conversing with adults doesn’t feel like an option. Communication is a two-way street. You never know what lessons, guidance, or inspiration you might gain.
~trust the good vibes and spread all the love,