Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. Psalm 71:18
The phrase going mental is a cliché and idiom for getting angry and even being a little crazy. The recent pandemic has triggered a lot of incidents that can only be described as “going mental”.
In a normal year, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) reports a handful of airline incidents when a passenger goes a little crazy. This past year, it has soared almost 10 times to more than 2,500 incidents. That’s unprecedented. Nerves have been frayed, and people are more fragile than ever.
Some of the incidents are head shakers, like the passengers who went ballistic when they couldn’t bring falcons on board as a “support animal”. Really?
Forbes Magazine attributed the causes of airline incidents to four major factors. The first is that airlines are flying with fewer frequent travelers (the bulk of travelers pre-pandemic were business travelers).
Secondly, they attribute some incidents to changing mask rules over the past year, which causes confusion. Thirdly, they suggest that people have “pandemic fatigue”. Lastly, they attribute it to increased violence in society with no consequences. I will explore that topic in a later post.
Of course, the penalties for bad behavior – particularly over not wearing masks – is severe – often fines up to $52,000 depending on the conduct. Airlines also have policies where unruly passengers will be banned – either for a period of time or for life – from ever flying again.
With all due respect to the Forbes article, I would submit that the articles on unruly passengers are missing another component – one that I have warned about previously: the pandemic has triggered an epidemic of mental illness. Unruly passengers on airlines are but the tip of the iceberg.
According to one study, 4 of 10 people in July, 2020, reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, up from 1 out of 10 back in June of 2019. A KFF Tracking Poll in 2020 found many adults reporting negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, including “difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption (12%) and worsening chronic conditions(12%)” due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.
There have been increases in suicides, particularly in the next generation and surprisingly in young girls which was trending up before Covid. Anxiety and depression are right behind that which is particularly sobering because the next generation has shown tendencies to be the most anxious generations ever.
Many in he next generation were brought up in an environment which has been designed to smooth out the bumps of life. Helicopter or Lawnmower parenting comes to mind. The unintended consequence is that the bubble wrapped young person has not developed defenses or resiliency to withstand events like Covid.
In other words, the next generation are often sitting ducks, and the pandemic increased isolation which has reduced healthy social interaction. I’ve called it the Perfect Storm. Although Covid is beginning to wane, the experts warn that the mental health issues are likely to continue for many years.
As parents and mentors, it is hard to watch, but each can be part of a solution. For things like depression, the first step is to develop an awareness of the symptoms. Once you realize that someone is depressed, there are lots of things that can help, including anti-depression medications.
For the record, I have been on an anti-depressant medication for more than 30 years because my systems ability to manufacture serotonin is depleted from a couple of burnout episodes in the early 1990’s. Much of depression comes from external stressors and life difficulties.
The stigma of clinical depression often makes it a topic that people don’t want to talk about, but they must if the next generation is to get the help they really need. Death by suicide worldwide costs 700,000 lives a year, which is one person every 40 seconds. Suicides are a world-wide public health issue.
Where mentors can help is to reach out to the next generation and walk alongside them. I spent last week at a Dude ranch where I interacted with a number of Gen Z members. It was a good time to get some first-hand research. Everyone I asked would relish having someone to mentor them. No exceptions.
That means that the demand for mentoring still exists, even in Gen Z. Millennials have always been overwhelmingly open to mentoring, so this was confirmation that the need still exists. In this post-Christian and post-truth world, the next generation is looking for someone or something to believe in that will last.
Letting them know that their lives are precious in the sight of the Lord can be comforting and valuable. It is a gift a mentor can freely give away.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: As a mentor, you are in a great position to walk alongside someone in the next generation who may be facing difficult or overwhelming things in their life.
FURTHER RESEARCH: Four Causes of Increased Aviation Incidents – Forbes
Is the Country Experiencing a Mental Health Pandemic – Psychiatric Times
Symptoms of Depression – Mayo Clinic
WORSHIP: Goodness of God – Bethel Music
For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.
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