The Anxious Generation
Oct 13, 2023 | 3 min read | Dave Patty
Jesus is the answer. But what is the question?
In each generation, the questions change. Today’s young people are facing unprecedented levels of anxiety. “There is no bigger public health story now than the collapse in youth mental health,” says social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. “The numbers are terrifying… “
The EU Council of Europe Youth recently analyzed 77 separate studies of current mental health and concluded that, on average, at least one in four European young people (25.2%) show clinically elevated symptoms of depression, and at least one in five (20.5%) show clinically elevated symptoms of anxiety.
Even more surprising is that over twice as many young people are suffering from these issues today than before the pandemic started. Social media, breakdown in families, and instability caused by a worldwide health crisis have combined to produce the most anxious generation since psychological testing began.
When we talk with students in Central and Eastern Europe, the issues seem even more widespread. Miri, a 17-year-old Czech student, recently told me, “Every one of my friends, I think, has at least anxiety. And if it's worse, then it’s depression or eating disorders. It's almost weirder to be mentally okay. It's like, oh, you have anxiety, yeah, me too. And then you can't really help each other if you all have it.”
However, this pressing need also opens amazing doors for the gospel. “It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick,” Jesus said. Youth leaders and believing young people have something precious to give to this hurting generation because they know the great healer.
The youth leaders we serve will never be mental health professionals, but they can be “first responders,” entering with compassion and kingdom resources into the pain of this anxious generation. They can bring them the presence and power of Christ.
Last month we gathered 400 of our team and key leaders from 18 countries to be equipped as “first responders.” Dr. David Van Dyke, who chairs the counseling department at Wheaton Graduate School, joined us and brought deep insights coupled with very practical strategies on how to respond to current mental health needs. The fact that he was once a youth leader himself gave him special insight into our field of service.
Our challenge to the audience was to see the harassed and helpless with a heart of compassion, just as Jesus saw the crowds in Matthew 9, and then to see a white harvest. The laborers are few. But If we are first responders, who equip youth leaders as first responders, who equip their young people as first responders, we can bring hope to this anxious generation.
Although the questions change, the answer is still the same. Thanks for helping us point them to Jesus.
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