Generation Y: The Depressed Generation?
In the next installment of our Mental Health Week series, HELEN THOMPSON considers whether we need to look again at diagnosis.
Does anybody remember Quizilla? Back in the innocent days of Bebo, Quizilla provided the perfect companion to a rainy day. It allowed you to complete short personality quizzes online. Twelve year-old me was convinced that every click of the mouse was a way to peel back my layers and expose my bare soul, allowing a sense of introspection and self-reflection like never before. Instead, what I actually did was waste my youth staring wistfully at a screen and wondering to myself where it was that I could find my perfect unicorn.
Well, as it turns out, getting diagnosed with Depression is pretty much akin to completing a quiz on Quizilla. Faced with a series of questions on a screen, the doctor reads out a series of statements and you reply on whether you ‘agree’ ‘strongly agree’ ‘disagree’ or indeed if you ‘neither agree nor disagree.’ Question, answer, question, answer… Bing bang bosh. Depressed.
But unlike Quizilla, this isn’t a result that you can make a satisfied noise at and then forget about. No, this result comes complete with prescription antidepressants, which as far as prizes for answering a test, is pretty rubbish. No, give me a goldfish in a bag any day.
Whilst on the outside it may seem like we are getting straight down to it and finally treating the problem of mental health with the seriousness it deserves by giving medication to those who need it, without ‘wasting’ their time on self-help and a ‘good long walk,’ there’s a part of me that thinks this is all a little too easy.
I find the fact that I was diagnosed with Depression by a machine and not by a person a little jarring. There is little interest in the human behind the condition; it seemed that once the quiz had served its purpose of labelling me and putting me in a little box marked ‘depressed’, there was no need for further questions, no interest in causes, no room for grey in amongst the black and white text. You’re depressed, you need anti-depressants. Next!
Undoubtedly, there are times when medication can save a person, but antidepressants aren’t for everyone and they sure as hell aren’t always necessary. Giving out strong medication, seemingly regardless of the severity of the condition, is symptomatic of our determination to get the job done and dusted, to deal with people in the most efficient way possible, when in reality this approach isn’t going to help anyone.
Indeed, rates of mental illness are unarguably on the rise – especially within the 18-30 year-old age group – but is this increase somewhat exaggerated, with doctors and general practitioners giving out medication as a first resort rather than as a last? Are we really as ill as the statistics seem to suggest?
These rising rates come as no surprise, considering that the symptoms of depression are commonly listed online as ‘fatigue’ or ‘restlessness’ as well as somehow both ‘oversleeping’ and ‘difficulty sleeping’ – all things that I’m sure the majority of us can relate to. Indeed, it’s easy to understand how we can so easily convince ourselves we have a mental disorder, and why the number of people going to the doctors with these ailments has increased.
Mental illness is notoriously difficult to diagnose; with no discernible symptoms, it’s easy to see why perhaps this standardised system of assessment has been introduced. But at the end of the day, people need people to talk to them, to understand them and treat them in a way that’s best for them – even if this would take time and money.
It’s tricky and it’s delicate; the jury remains very much out on this one. Whilst it’s true that things like social media and celebrity culture are exerting unprecedented pressure upon the younger and more impressionable generations, there is definitely something to be said for the reevaluation of our criteria for mental illness. The debate rages on.
Do you believe that we have a habit of overdiagnosis? Do you think mental health amongst the younger generation is a growing issue that needs addressing? Do you think both? Let us know at [email protected]