The lost young men of our generation
There seems to be a real crisis going on for young men aged 18-30. I have found countless examples of young men who are anxious, lacking in confidence and unsure of what to do. This group seems to be overlooked but there are a considerable number of lost young men needing extra support. Many don’t have the confidence to apply for work and these are your average males who went to school and fared well at school. Some have university degrees, other don’t. But the overriding similarity is that many of our young men, worldwide, are struggling.
More than half of those unemployed report that they suffer from anxiety and avoid meeting new people, according to a report on wellbeing among youths. According to an article in The Guardian from 2015,
“Nearly six out of 10 unemployed young people polled said anxiety had stopped them from sleeping well, over half said feeling anxious stopped them from asking for help while 41% said it stopped them from leaving the house, according to a survey of 2,265 16 to 25-year-olds published in a new report by youth charity the Prince’s Trust.
Martina Milburn, the chief executive of the Prince’s Trust, said: “Thousands of young people feel like prisoners in their own homes.”
It’s a vicious cycle. Many young people are so anxious that they are unable to look for work. If you aren’t oozing confidence and self belief, you are easily overlooked in the competitive society we live in. Very few allowances are made for these anxious young people who need extra support.
Their mental health needs support and the help just isn’t there. So what’s going on?
Common issues amongst young males
I have noticed a huge increase in young men coming to see me for counselling. They are directionless, anxious and fearful of the world ‘out there’. They feel sidelined, ignored and feel there is no hope for the future. Confidence is key to getting ahead and you are easily ignored if you aren’t able to sell yourself and appear extra competent.
Many of the young men I meet spend a lot of time at home. They escape from the harshness of life by playing online games. They have told me that they feel accepted by their online pals who don’t judge them on how they look. This safe feeling at home reinforces reclusiveness amongst young people.
Generalise Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is a very common anxiety disorder. When a person worries about many different aspects – such as their health, their social relationships, the future, their work status etc – they may be suffering from GAD. Generalised anxiety disorder ((GAD) is the feeling of being anxious about almost everything and anything for no real apparent reason.
Depression and anxiety are among the most common mental health conditions experienced by young people. One in seven young men aged between 16 and 24 experience depression or anxiety each year. Social norms around masculinity can be really harmful, especially when it comes to your mental health. It can make it really hard for many of us to acknowledge when we’re not doing too well and even harder to reach out for the kinds of support we need when we’re struggling.
Men with depression may:
- Feel sad, hopeless or empty
- Feel extremely tired
- Have difficulty sleeping or sleep too much
- Not get pleasure from activities they used to enjoy
Other behaviours in men that could be signs of depression — but not recognized as such — include:
- Escapist behavior, such as spending a lot of time at work or on sports
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems and pain
- Problems with alcohol or drug use
- Controlling, violent or abusive behavior
- Irritability or inappropriate anger
- Risky behavior, such as reckless driving
Physical symptoms of depression: headaches, digestive problems, tiredness, irritability or long-term pain. Depression can result from feeling isolated and seeking distraction to avoid dealing with feelings or relationships. Young men also tend to donwplay their symptoms as they feel they will be judged.
Although women attempt suicide more often than men do, men are more likely to complete suicide. That’s because men:
- Use methods that are more likely to cause death, such as guns
- May act more impulsively on suicidal thoughts
- Show fewer warning signs, such as talking about suicide
Due to a lack of confidence and social anxiety, many young people still live at home with their parents and feel they would not be able to survive on their own.
The young males that I have interviewed have reported that they don’t know what to do with their lives. They feel very negative about their futures. Some have said, “What’s the point of finding a job you hate, paying taxes and having no freedom?”. They have seen how their paretns have struggled to make ends meet and don;t like the idea of having to be a responsible adult. In some ways I don’t blame them. Life is hard and I believe it is getting even tougher to find a decent job amd make an honest living. Universities just see each person as an ‘application form’, it’s hard to stand out and even harder when you lack confidence and motivation.
Feeling like a misfit
Many of the young males I have spoken to have told me that they feel as if no one else understands them. The irony is that there are som many young men who would understand each other of they would be connected. This is an epidemic of lost young people who are afraid of life.
Sleep disturbance is another common symptom.
Eating disorders in young men is rising. Researchers have estimated that men represent roughly 10% of the individuals who are treated for eating disorders. However, the percentage of men among people with eating disorders is estimated to be much higher, because eating disorders in men are often overlooked or misdiagnosed by clinicians.
If you are a young male aged between 18-30, it’s important to know that the future can be bright and that help is available:
Treatment, including psychotherapy, with a mental health professional can help you learn healthy coping skills. These may include:
- Goals. Set realistic goals and prioritize tasks.
- Support. Seek out emotional support from a partner or family or friends. Learn strategies for making social connections so that you can get involved in social activities.
- Coping. Learn ways to manage stress, such as meditation and mindfulness, and develop problem-solving skills.
- Decisions. Delay making important decisions, such as changing jobs, until your depression symptoms improve.
- Activities. Engage in activities you typically enjoy, such as ball games, fishing or a hobby.
- Health. Try to stick to a regular schedule and make healthy lifestyle choices, including healthy eating and regular physical activity, to help promote better mental health.
Many effective treatments are available for depression. So don’t try to tough out male depression on your own — the consequences could be devastating.
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