People around my age often ask me why I think it is that more young people than ever seem to have ‘mental health problems’, self harm, talk about not being able to cope, seek help.
This is often accompanied by one of, or both, the following questions:
“Is it because there’s so much pressure on them?”
“How can we help them to be more resilient?”
The first question is probably impossible to answer. It assumes that what seems to be is a fact, then picks out one possible causative variable which would be extremely difficult to quantify.
The second is easy. We can ask them how they are being so resilient.
When I listen to young people telling me about the ways in which they’ve been judged, examined, dictated to, criticised, compared to others, scoffed at, ignored and rejected, I’m struck by how resilient they must be to survive it and cling on to even the tiniest sliver of hope that things can get better, in order to seek help from anyone who might be able to come up with anything at all that might be of use to them in their struggle.
It seems to me that this is a generation who are literally being tested to breaking point, and are somehow managing to keep going, even to find some joy, some connection with others and to celebrate life at times.
The natural question to ask them, then, is “how are you doing this?”
I think young people can tell us a lot about resilience. They can describe it in great detail. Especially those who we consider to have ‘mental health problems’, who self harm, who talk about not being able to cope sometimes. And asking them the question, so that they can hear their own answer, is the best way I know to help that resilience grow.