In today’s society, we have become so obsessed with beauty and staying young that we have resorted to Botox and plastic surgery despite dangerous complications they are known to cause on our health. But this is not really a surprise, and instead a result of the romanticization of youth portrayed by the TV and media industry. Let’s face it, you’ve probably heard the notion that being young is ‘better’ than growing old a time or two before. Although many people may agree with this statement, there is no actual scientific evidence that life is better for young people than for old. In fact, researchers found that older adults are psychologically better off on average as compared to their younger counterparts, as older age has been found to be associated with lower stress levels, less anxiety, and decreased risk for depression. Yet our media still glorifies our youth years, oftentimes placing lots of pressure and feelings of dissatisfaction on young adults for not living up to expectations. Having the pressure to make your youth the best time of your life while juggling the period of transitioning into adulthood can create lots of stress for young adults particularly if they already struggle with mental health.
Media’s effects on youth and mental health
The media industry is certainly responsible for much of society’s obsession and glorification of young adulthood. Social media has led to negative impacts on the mental health of our youth, and its false portrayal of reality is a big component behind these impacts. Youth is only the beginning of our lives, and we should not be expected to have done and achieved everything by the time we are thirty. This unrealistic expectation has started to bring more struggle than joy.
Some research suggests that TV watching can contribute to depression and poor mental health. Interacting with TV or social media can give us the sense of interacting with others, without having any face-to-face interaction. People need social connections to thrive as it is one of the largest protective factors against depression. Our society values close relationships and long-term partnerships, partially because the media portrays them as so desirable. While humans are innately wired to be social creatures, the media’s portrayal of what your social life, particularly as a teen, should look like can leave viewers feeling inadequate about their own personal lives and relationships. Watching television every once in a while won’t hurt you, but sometimes it can become a regular habit leading some people to rely on it for comfort. This can become problematic especially if it causes the person to withdraw from or replace the social activity with TV or another form of media.
Media can have significant impacts on the minds of youth, particularly certain shows or influencers that are popular amongst their peers. Some studies have even found that the media can influence participation in risky behaviors such as unsafe sex, underage drinking, and even violence. Meanwhile, media outlets have the ability to influence positive behaviors as well as they can be used as educational platforms to expand creativity, raise awareness on social issues, and give helpful health and wellbeing advice.
The real challenges of young adulthood
The glorification of youth in our society has caused us to neglect many of the difficulties and complications that often come with young adulthood. Young adults today face several challenges that can make the transition into adulthood quite a stressful time. Finances and school are two of the biggest stressors young adults often face, and the two can go hand-in-hand. Our media portrays college life as all about partying and having fun and neglects some of the real-life challenges that are also associated with college. This can taint the mind of some young students, leading them to believe they will be able to party their way through college without any consequences. However, most young adults go to college with the desire to pursue their degree in order to get a good-paying job. Degrees are quite expensive. The average student leaves undergrad with $28,950 in debt and this number is even higher for students who go to private or out-of-state colleges. Having this amount of debt at such a young age is extremely stressful and can lead to poor mental health outcomes. While finances may inhibit some from going to college, many students still choose to risk going into debt by pursuing their degree, with a whopping 69 percent of high-school students going on directly to post-secondary education.
Regardless of financial status, there are still many obstacles that nearly all young adults face in relation to school. The academic world has become more and more competitive, and expectations are higher. The high-stakes competition can make it even harder to just get into college, let alone finish a 4-year degree. In the United States, the total dropout rate for undergraduate college students is 40 percent, with nearly 30 percent dropping after their first year. So, why is this number so high? Besides finances, there are many other factors associated with college that can make it a difficult and stressful time for many young adults. The following are some common challenges college students face that the media tends to exclude:
- Time Management. In college, many students may find themselves ‘spread too thin’ amongst all of their responsibilities. Many college students hold jobs, take part in clubs, intern or do volunteer work, and more, on top of having a full class load. Managing all of these responsibilities while still having time for yourself and a social life can be quite a challenge. The best advice to solve this issue is for students to determine their own limits. Take fewer credits or opt for fewer hours at your job or extracurricular activities if you are able. Summer classes may help students take some off their plate as far as workload, while still allowing you to complete your degree within 4 years.
- Homesickness. For many young students, it is common to experience homesickness, especially if this is your first time spending that much time away from home. While a simple solution to this may be coming home on the weekends, students who frequently visit home during college can hurt their college experience. College is an ideal time for young adults to develop independence and make new connections. If your child is frequently spending their weekends in college at home, it can inhibit their development into independence as well as prevent them from building new relationships in school.
- Depression. Depression is a real issue for college students, as the stress of academic and social pressure can lead to emotional lows. Some students may find relief in partying, drinking, or recreational use of drugs, however, these outlets may contribute to emotional struggles in the long run. If your student is struggling with their mental health in college, it may be beneficial to seek professional help. Seek out your school’s counseling center and see what help they have available.
- Poor self-care. Some students struggle with engaging in proper self-care which puts them at higher risk for physical and mental health conditions. High amounts of stress can cause students to neglect their self-care, particularly sleep. Set a regular sleep schedule and try to stick to it, by making sleep a priority. Other forms of self-care that should be a priority include eating healthy, exercising, and taking proper hygienic precautions.
- Relationships. Relationships are an important part of our well-being; they are important to have but can sometimes be overwhelming. The pressure to make and maintain new relationships adds to the stress of college students. In addition, breakups and toxic relationships can distract from academic responsibilities as well as contribute to poor mental health.
- Choosing your major. Oftentimes, this pressure of college is forgotten about, however, many students go into college ‘undecided’ on their major and are not given a whole lot of time to figure things out. There is not much room for trial and error in college when it comes to picking a major unless you’d like to add an extra year or two to your college experience. With that being said the field you choose will ideally translate to your future career path, making this decision quite important. The pressure to decide on a major in time while finding a field you actually enjoy adds to the overarching stress of college students.
blueFire PulsaR Can Help
blueFire PulsaR is a co-ed wilderness therapy program for young adults ages 18-28 who are struggling with the challenges of young adulthood. Our program addresses the emotional, behavioral, and social problems in young adults who are considering dropping out of college or are struggling with their transition into independence. Our program is dedicated to helping clients regain a better sense of the world around them and adopt healthier self-management skills.
For more information about how our program can help young adults with their launch into adulthood and independence, please contact us at 1 (844) 413-1999.