Like culture war stuff, I generally find these generational divides to be artificial. I have a wonderful demographer colleague, don’t get me wrong, but I think so much of the intergenerational stuff of “Ok, Boomer” and whatnot tends to be about exploiting ageism to get clicks more than anything. There are selfish, awful people in every generation just like there are cool, giving, and wonderful people in each one. I cut my teeth protest with a 92 year-old Grandmother who hated nukes. (and who understood how to ally very well in that she knew one way to make the police calm the hell down was to make them arrest a 92 year-old white lady.) Yeah, there are lotsa Boomer NIMBYs but I am also seeing a LOT of twenty-something dudes at these white supremacist rallies.
So there’s the disclaimer. Like the culture war stuff, there are differences, and some of those differences are meaningful. And there is one difference that I love soooooooooooooooooooo much: my Gen Z students talk about going to see their therapists like my generation talks about going to see the dentist. I really don’t have words to describe how healthy and awesome that is.
Mental health was so stigmatized when I grew up and as we all know, that shit kills people. Now, my students are really privileged, and I don’t want to downplay the many, many barriers that many still have in being able to get treatment, let alone mention it in conversation with the assumption that they will still be respected and cared for. But the fact that anybody can do it is a breath of fresh air. I’ve been told many many times about how brave I am for being as real as I am about my own depression, anxiety, and addiction struggles and the reason I did that was so that people could feel less alone in theirs.
I’m sitting here at my desk smiling as I think about it because it makes me incredibly happy to see how many younger generations can just get what they need without having to deal with a lot of stigma and other crap.
Students are always inspiring, but this particular point is really special to me. They are a great example. Get what you need; there is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself.