In the current societal climate, youth are more active in community, politics and important conversations. One of the conversations that young people are participating in is mental illness and trauma. Many youth have started to discuss this topic more often because they know that it is something that affects them personally.


According to an article by Cleveland Clinic on Generation Z and mental health, “while Generation Z might be more likely to report poor mental health, they’re also more likely than older generations to be aware of their mental health and seek out help when necessary.”


“As a young person,” said 16-year-old Eliot Olson, “I feel the system is set up against me. My feelings are undervalued and health care is impossible for young people. Therefore, we have to talk about it and we have to kind of figure it out on our own. Some days I feel just awful and it seems like most adults don’t get that.”

Youth volunteering at Colonial Heights Library for the 2018 Prom Drive


Many youth that are considered Generation Z see issues in the way that their mental health is viewed by adults. As stated previously, they seek help and they know that they are struggling. However, many teenagers feel as though the adults in their lives aren’t listening.


“I personally know adults who take mental health days from work,” said recently-turned-18 Dylan Freed. “It isn’t a big deal, but when any teenager does it, it’s literally seen as the end of the world.”


Youth want to feel better and find the resources they need in order to do so. One resource that can be seen to make one feel empowered is volunteering. This is usually seen as a selfless act and often as something that can help one feel whole.


According to an article on a study from UCLA Newsroom, “California teens who volunteer and engage in civic life are healthier, aim higher in education, study finds…The survey showed that teens with high levels of civic efficacy are more likely to say they are in “very good” or ‘excellent’ health, compared to those with low civic efficacy, 76 percent to 49 percent, respectively.”

Día de Los Niños 2018 at the Colonial Heights Library

“I saw a huge shift in my child’s behavior,” said Germelle Watson, mother of 2. “She went from being shy and having so much intense anxiety in a single meeting, to running meetings and planning entire events. She used to be so deep in her depression that I never thought she would even see the surface. And although she still can get really bad, it has not been as terrifying and intense as it used to be. Volunteering really helped.”

Some youth in Generation Z agree that they do in fact, have it worse off than the generation which came before them. On the other hand, however, they also seem more knowledgeable of resources and much more willing to use those for help.