At the outset, the premise that most millennials are lazy when they are simply burnt out is not a new one. Writer Anne Helen Petersen, in her widely read essay ‘How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation’ made a compelling case for it.
When she wrote – “Financially speaking, most of us lag far behind where our parents were when they were our age…(Millennials) got venture capital, but we’ve also got the 2008 financial crisis, the decline of the middle class and the rise of the 1%, and the steady decay of unions and stable, full-time employment” – the argument found validation across the pool of people who were discussing her postulation with justified head nods.
Petersen, however, was talking of people outside India. But the thoughts she penned, which supported my research, are not far from how millennials in India feel.
Therapists across cities in India mirrored the views shared by the author, Amitta Shringi, a Jaipur-based therapist who has been providing sessions to millennials suffering from anxiety and depression for around 12 years, said, “Youngsters in the age group of 24-29 come to be with this drilled notion that they are lazy and that is why they are not able to do anything – be it at work or personal development. They don’t understand that it is their mind that is stopping them from making any progress in a positive direction because of their illness. They don’t understand that the reason they are constantly tired is because they are sick. It’s just their symptoms aren’t physical.”
Psychologist Shringi said the most stressful factor for millennials, especially post-Covid, is the stress they face at work and of course, at home. “They have to worry about fulfilling their financial responsibilities while navigating the toxic workplace culture. And then there are some who have such ambitious dreams but are stuck in a place where they don’t enjoy working because of lack of money,” she added, saying enjoying one’s work has become a thing of the past lately and that is one of the leading causes of anxiety and depression.
A study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%. While there is no official data available as to how many people actually came out being depressed as Covid began to subside, our experiences with people around us can be extremely telling.
Think about it: Off late, how many conversations with how many individuals have you had recently where you did not discuss each other’s deteriorating mental health?
Patna-based therapist Pranay Priya said that post-Covid, the number of people coming for sessions has increased by at least 90%. “If there are five youngsters in the family, all of them require therapy. The theme of aggression or concern is often along the lines of ‘Why cannot I do this or that when everyone around me seems to be functional?’ What these youngsters don’t understand is that a person can be fully functional even while dealing with his or her inner battles.”
High-functioning depression is a non-clinical label for a form of depression that isn’t necessarily severe enough to be diagnosed as clinical. Someone with functional depression might have a low mood or lack of motivation while still being able to complete daily obligations. The fact that someone with high-functioning depression can fulfil their responsibilities doesn’t make someone the health professionals could ignore.
Pune-based therapist Aruna Kulkarni also brought up the point of workplace aggression that is causing the most stress among millennials.”It is like everyone is struggling and everyone is dumping their emotional trauma on one another. The other contributing factor is families and the stress that comes with dealing with their loss or expectations.”
Author Petersen writes extensively on job anxiety – the nature of which has changed over the years since the author graduated. She was 38 when she published the article.
“Every graduating senior is scared, to some degree, of the future, but this was on a different level. When my class left our liberal arts experience, we scattered to temporary gigs: I worked at a dude ranch; another friend nannied for the summer; one got a job on a farm in New Zealand; others became raft guides and transitioned to ski instructors. We didn’t think our first job was important; it was just a job and would eventually, meanderingly lead to The Job.”
Peterson emphasised, “But these students were convinced that their first job out of college would not only determine their career trajectory but also their intrinsic value for the rest of their lives. I told one student, whose dozens of internship and fellowship applications yielded no results, that she should move somewhere fun, get a job, and figure out what interests her and what kind of work she doesn’t want to do — a suggestion that prompted wailing. ‘But what’ll I tell my parents?’ she said. ‘I want a cool job I’m passionate about!’”
Vasundhara S, a therapist from Tamil Nadu said the anxiety comes from a place of missed early years of adulthood due to Covid. “Now, millennials don’t know if they fully think the way out for them is validation and appreciation – something that has been lost from our collective consciousness over the years. They are starved for a pat on the back saying ‘You survived today, that’s enough’. All they, however, get is ‘Hey, here’s your next super urgent work deadline and another EMI payment’.”
It is a known fact that Covid has changed how we see the society around us. The uncertainty has made us anxious and unsure of our future. There is no wand, no spell that can just undo all the terrible things we feel on a constant basis inside our heads. However, now that we know that most of us are in a similar boat, a little kindness towards all might just make things slightly bearable and easier to comprehend, experts concluded.