Generation Z and the Crisis of Success
In 2018, Statistics Canada released a report entitled “A Portrait of Canadian Youth”. The report stresses that Canadian youth today are more diverse and more connected than any generation before them. Even the baby boomers, who redefined what it meant to be young by proving to the world that youth could stop wars, create iconic rock and roll music, advocate for sexual freedom, and even walk on the moon, were not as socially engaged as today’s youth, who display unprecedented levels of independence, loyalty, and technological ability. The diversity of today’s youth is evident in the way they self-identify, with over a quarter of youth identifying as members of a visible minority group and 4%-10% identifying as either homosexual or bisexual.
But what happens when this diversity—this desire to create and nurture connections, cultures, friendships, and self-identities—becomes a barrier to success, rather than something to be celebrated?
Generation Z is facing a crisis. Rates of mood disorders, including depression and anxiety, have reached all-time highs. Youth are the most likely demographic to be the victims of violent crimes, including robbery, physical assault, and sexual assault. Over one quarter of youth report feeling extreme social isolation. Nearly one third of youth say they have been refused a job because of their disability, their gender identity, their sexual identity, or their ethnicity. Low pay and even lower rates of affordable housing are keeping youth from finding housing. And, of course, the dark underbelly of social media is arguably causing more problems than it’s fixing.
So, what do we do?
First, we need to see today’s youth for what they really are – the future. We need to listen to them without judgment, we need to share our own stories about struggling and healing, and most of all, we need to support them.
Of course, support can mean many things. Support can be emotional, financial, social, but it can also be instrumental – a meal, a learning resource, a tank of gas. Yes, youth need emotional support, but they also need actual things.
But the only way we can truly, surely, definitely, help youth stare down their struggles is to work together. And while this statement is definitely cliché, it is also irrefutable. Corporations, governments, educators, and non-profits need to put aside their sometimes-serious-but-often-petty differences and band together in support of youth. Collaboration is the only way we will remove barriers that prevent youth from success. Collaboration is the only way we can help youth find meaning and maximize their happiness. Because that’s the true goal – safety, security, success, and happiness.