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Mental Illnesses: generation psychotherapy

Are young people more often mentally ill these days? At least they are struggling with a world in which everything is viewed through psychological glasses.


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Dealing with mental illnesses is becoming more open - also thanks to a young generation who dare to talk about it. In our series "Fits Already" we deal with talking about the psyche. In this text, our author investigates the question of whether young people today are particularly often mentally ill.

Two people are sitting in an empty bathtub, fully clothed, waiting for a tear. It is the bathtub in which the man's mother drowned. And the tear that the woman is waiting for is supposedly the first since that tragic death. This is perhaps the most delicate scene between Zach Braff and Natalie Portman in the film Garden State. When the tear finally comes, Portman tries to catch it with a mug. "Shit, it hurts so much," says Braff. The film is from 2004. It is part of a long history of American suburbia coming-of-age films. Many dismissed it as an emo film and quickly forgot about it. But you can see so much more in this film: It is early evidence that young adults are increasingly looking for access to their feelings that the generation of their grandfathers still successfully buried. And it could show something else: How fragile young people are today.

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A reproach is often made for this fragility. It has become a motive that should not be missing in any swan song for millennials: Young people are constantly complaining and pitying themselves. They take the smallest argument to heart. They are effeminate, but they are so much better off than all generations before them ("Grandpa was at war!").



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And at the first crisis of meaning they run straight to the therapist.

This accusation could be confirmed if one takes a look at the doctor's report from the Barmer health insurance company: One and a half times as many mentally ill people as in 2005, more people with anxiety disorders, more people with panic attacks, the report counted almost twice as many depressed people among the 18- up to 25-year-olds (Barmer Doctors Report, 2018, pdf). Is a generation growing up of mentally ill, sad, disabled, stressed young people? A generation that suffers from the social changes, flexes and breaks up mentally? A generation of psychotherapy? The answer is: Could be - but there is a good reason.

The search for the generation of psychotherapy does not begin with a film, but with statistics. To find out whether young people have psychological problems particularly often, the health insurance data is of little help. Because they only show that the number of diagnoses has increased. If you really want to know how much young people in Germany suffer from mental illnesses, you need other studies. Studies in which you almost knock on doors and ask people questions: Are you often sad? Don't you get out of bed in the morning? Do you see or hear things that others cannot see? These studies show: In no age group do people feel mentally worse than between 18 and 29. More than one in three, almost two out of five people here had some kind of mental illness - from schizophrenia to anxiety disorder to depression (Psychiatry: Jacobi & Groß, 2014, pdf).

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Götz Berberich is not surprised by these numbers. He does not use the word fragility, instead he speaks of a "threshold phase" or a phase in which "massive upheavals" occur. Berberich is the chief physician at the Windach am Ammersee clinic, which takes care of the psyche of young people. This "threshold phase", says Berberich, is characterized by a whole host of developmental tasks: When you are young, you have to learn to break away from your parents, to lead partnerships, to build your own life for a person am I? " In Berberich's words: "You have to develop inner-psychological abilities, for example improve control of emotions and impulses" and develop trust in yourself and your own decisions. That sounds like there's a lot of space to feel really bad mentally. And if there is also a genetic predisposition or a social network that is weakening, then this can result in a tangible depression or anxiety disorder.

And Götz Berberich says something else: "100 years ago when I was 14 I knew I would be a baker because my father was a baker. Today a lot is so arbitrary. Young people know: I can work anywhere, I can become anything. In Finding a footing in this world is extremely difficult for many young people. " And many find it difficult to cope in a world in which everything is "equally valid".