Although there may just be more visibility on the Internet, self-harm in Gen Z is on the rise. Time Magazine attributes the increase in self-harm among today’s teenagers to the intensified teen angst that is spread through social media. Teen angst refers to a general feeling of anxiety and frustration that often refers to the state of the world. They’ve grown up in a world of insecurity and pressure for high achievement and have adapted to these stressors by normalizing it online through connections with others struggling with the same outlook on their future.
Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, explains, “If you wanted to create an environment to churn out really angsty people, we’ve done it. School stress and family conflict are small factors compared to the cauldron of stimulus they can’t get away from, or don’t want to get away from, or don’t know how to get away from.”
Characteristics of Gen Z
Generation Z refers to teenagers born between 1995 and 2005 who have grown up along with technology but haven’t known life without it. Ever since the oldest of this generation entered high school, rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide have been increased significantly after several years of stability, and even a steady decline. Whether it is due to decreased mental health stigma or increased prevalence, between 20-30% of teenagers suffer from mental health issues. This is roughly the same rate as adults, if not higher, considering normal teenage moodiness and angst. Regardless of whether they’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, Generation Z is considered more fragile and less resilient than previous generations.
Some defining characteristics of Gen Z that can be concerning include:
- Overwhelmed more easily
- Higher expectations to succeed
- Exposure to violence in the media
- More concerned with appearance and popularity on social media platforms
- More protective parents
- More averse to taking risks
- Delayed transition into adult roles and milestones, such as driving, dating, working, and living independently
How did this happen?
Time explains, ‘They are the post-9/11 generation, raised in an era of economic and national insecurity. They’ve never known a time when terrorism and school shootings weren’t the norm. They grew up watching their parents weather a severe recession, and, perhaps most important, they hit puberty at a time when technology and social media were transforming society.” They are the first generation that feels like they don’t have an option to unplug and escape from their problems as they rely on the Internet to maintain relationships and stay updated on news. The constant pressure they feel to keep up appearances and stay connected can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Therefore, more teens are turning to other strategies to cope with this desire to escape.
Teens Turning to Self Harm
While not everyone who struggles with depression self-harms, they are more at risk. It is hard to detect signs of teen self-harm as it can easily be hidden; however, Seattle Children’s Hospital reports that teens may be more open about it online than in person, tracking millions of results for self-harm related hashtags a year, excluding tags that are censored by apps like Instagram. They also concluded that based on their patient records, 60% of the teens who were admitted for self-harm related issues were female, which they attribute to girls’ focus on body image. Although it sounds contradictory for body image issues to lead to self-destructive behaviors, for some, it is a reflection of how they feel about themselves. For others, it is a rebellion against conventional standards of beauty.
It is important to consider a variety of social, emotional, and environmental factors that may contribute to the rise of teen self-harm to deal with underlying issues of self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Single-gender treatment centers are safe and supportive communities where girls can process these underlying issues with other girls struggling with similar issues.
Solstice East Can Help
Solstice East is a residential treatment center for young women ages 14-18 struggling with behavior and emotional issues, such as depression, anxiety, and self-harm. This program focuses on helping young women heal, recover, and integrate healthy habits into their lives. Students will learn to build healthy relationships, cope with emotions, and effectively communicate. Solstice East gives young women the skills and confidence they need to lead happy and healthy lives. Contact us at (855) 672-7058. We can help your family today!