How isolation harms mental health for Gen Z 

 In Mental Health

There are a number of red flags when it comes to mental health – and young people tell us that when the red flag of isolation starts waving, it’s time to pay attention. Our data show that only 34 percent of young people feel safe talking to adults about mental health issues, and while friends are often a go-to, sometimes young people hesitate to even engage them for fear of feeling like a burden.

"[Shutting others out] hurts you, but it's the only way that some of us know how to deal with it….it's a shutting, everyone out, isolating yourself until you're ready to be like, ‘I'm okay to socialize’ and that's not healthy at all."

Several of the young people we talked to mentioned that the worst part of the pandemic wasn’t the threat of illness, but the isolation that came from keeping away from friends and family. 

"I think humans are social creatures and being locked away and in isolation… the country was actually shut down, the world was actually shut down. I think that really did throw a lot of people for a loop. Personally, I'm very introverted. And I used to think - like in a joking or humorous type of way of coping -   ‘Oh this is fine. I can isolate for a while.’ But like there's a point where like, you're like, ‘No way - I need to interact with humans.’"

"I missed the whole year of high school. I didn't see friends and stuff. I was really stuck in my house doing online stuff, so I didn't really have time to talk to people. So that's probably why people fell in a really bad mental state. It's hard to pay attention online, especially for young kids, so the schoolwork stress them out. We weren't really talking to friends and stuff, stuff like that affected it."

"Over COVID, the time I just had to spend alone in my room, I did have my family there, but sometimes you just get enough of them. I just would attend classes from my room, but not talk to anyone really. And even just being around the campus with a bunch of people there, it just makes you feel less alone."

But for some young people, having faith was a way to combat isolation: 

"I grew up going to church, in the Christian church, until the end of high school, but in college, I didn't feel like that was super aligned with my belief system. But that community, when I was growing up, was a really good source of support for my mental health. I felt really supported and loved by that community and felt like I could really kind of like open up to them.... I think that I have a longing maybe, sometimes in moments of extreme crisis, to go back to that. And it does bring me a little bit of comfort. I don't know really who I'm praying to, or if there's like anything, but contemplation about that person and sending really good thoughts to them and just having some sort of feeling more interconnected to kind of our whole society. I think I get that a little bit through meditation, sometimes just being able to feel a little bit less like you’re always racing towards the past or the future and just being a little bit more present... I think that it makes me feel less isolated and less alone. And I think that when I feel less alone and less isolated, I have better mental health.”

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