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To Be Young and Unhappy

By November 27, 2019December 1st, 2019No Comments

The pressures on young people today.

One of the hallmarks of feminist therapy is the insistence that pain not be privatized. First described by the useful and perhaps necessary trope that “the personal is political,” feminist psychology dismisses common boundaries between the personal pain of the therapy office and the discrimination and oppression of the wider world.

The importance of this unified perspective has never been more evident than it is in these days of enormous political and cultural stress. The number of young people experiencing anxiety and depression has skyrocketed. Different life stages can be challenging for different reasons, that of high school and college students for all the new social and intellectual challenges facing them for the first time.

Added to the traditional pressures are social networking with its concomitant risks of bullying, harassment, sexting, and ghosting. Added to the traditional ones for females and female appearing persons are the physical threats of abuse, harassment, and other physical/emotional dangers. Added to the traditional ones are the possible and imminent danger of destruction of the very planet we call home in their lifetime.

Anxiety is the top concern among college students (41.6 percent), followed by depression (36.4 percent) and relationship problems (35.8 percent). Cutting and eating disorders are more prevalent among females.

On average, 24.5 percent of these young people are taking psychotropic medications.[1][2] Many more are self-medicating. Drugs and alcohol are used at younger and younger ages. Marijuana the most prevalent drug, according to current studies, followed by ecstasy.[3] Others are receiving culturally sanctioned medication.[4]

The current concerns of young people cannot be medicated away. From a feminist perspective, they can be helped in two important ways. The first is homogeneous group treatment, where the support of and connection with others confronting similar problems is so important. In these groups, consciousness and connection are emphasized; consciousness of the real and imminent threats; and connection to others who are experiencing them. These issues are, in this way, not reduced from terror to anxiety, from hopelessness to depression. Nor are they medicated away.

The second contribution of feminist approaches involves stepping beyond the therapy office door to engage in meaningful social action. The political is personal, as fear becomes anxiety and hopelessness depression. To connect with others and to act consciously are two of the best medicines we know.


[1] American Psycholgical Association, College students’ mental health is a growing concern, June 2013, Vol 44, No. 6.

[2] Sauma, J., Depression, anxiety rising among U.S. college students, 2019, Health News.

[3] Botvin, G. J.; Griffin, K. W.; Diaz, T; Scheier, L M., et al. 2000. “Preventing Illicit Drug Use in Adolescents: Long-Term Follow-Up Data from a Randomized Control Trial of a School Population.” Addictive Behaviors 5:769–774.

[4] DivyaManiar, Twenty-three percent of students prescribed mental health medication, University News, April 26, 2018.

This article was originally published in Psychology Today.

Ellyn Kaschak

Ellyn Kaschak

Ellyn Kaschak, Ph.D. is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning psychologist, author and teacher. She is well-known as a speaker, workshop leader, human rights advocate and a public intellectual.