On the 2nd January, I wrote a post called What’s the point? It was in response a news item I’d seen on the BBC website that morning which quoted that a large number of young people the UK feel they have nothing to live for. It cited unemployment as the main contributing factor and stated that young people’s mental health was suffering as a consequence. On reading around other sources and from watching the news that evening, it seemed that young people in the UK feel their lives lack meaning because a without a job they have no reason to get up in the morning and without a job they weren’t able to contribute to society. I also had feedback that young people feel they have nothing to live for because they aren’t able to afford a house or put money by for a pension.
In my post, I felt I was being sympathetic and suggested that the reason young people’s mental health was suffering was because they are wasting too much of their time and energy focussing on one future-oriented goal, i.e. home ownership and need to set themselves present-oriented goals to give them satisfaction in the here and now. On reflection I would like to elaborate on that post as I feel I did not say everything that needed to be said. What I feel is required, is a big virtual slap in the face for those who feel the Government and unemployment is to blame for young people’s ‘suffering’ mental health.
Despite leaving university 10 years ago with a first class BA degree, I am still not in a position where I have the disposable income to put aside for a deposit on a house, pay off my student loan or put any extra money towards a pension. I have also suffered with mental health problems on and off for most of my life. So with that in mind, I think that I’m more than qualified to have the following opinion.
I am not a fan of the current Government (I used to be a teacher) but by holding them and the current financial climate solely to blame, we are neglecting the real cause of the report’s finding that young people feel they have nothing to live for. What I suggest is to blame is a chronic lack of self-awareness, resilience and lateral thinking amongst some young people. It is not the lack of ownership and disposable income that causes mental suffering in this context, it is thoughts those young people have about their situation that causes their suffering. It is their thoughts about what they ‘should’ have that cause their suffering. It is their thoughts about what is ‘normal’ and what their entitled to that cause their suffering. These thoughts need to change.
I would very much like to be able to own my own house without having to share part of it with the Government but just because my parents were able to (which they weren’t in my case) and my grandparents were able to, it doesn’t mean I’m entitled to it or that it is the only way to achieve happiness in life. By holding the demand that ‘I must own my own home, it is the only way to feel successful’ or ‘I must own my own home, it is the only way to feel happy’, or ‘I must own my own home because the children I plan to have need it’, young people are setting themselves up for despair because these are demands, they are rigid, they’re all or nothing.
I’m willing to bet good money that someone comments on this saying, ‘it’s not demanding to want to own your own home; it should be a basic right’. If they do, it will illustrate my point beautifully that some young people are chronically lacking in self-awareness. I’m going to repeat my point from my previous post. If you place all your happiness on the condition you achieve one future-oriented goal that you may or may not achieve, you will feel miserable; it’s a given. Carry on with this line of thinking and you will continue feel miserable until you hopefully buy a house in 20 years’ time. Do you honestly want to delay your happiness for that long? Stop whining about and dwelling on what you can’t get in the future and focus more closely on what you could have now that brings you satisfaction and joy. For me, this blog brings me satisfaction and joy. I wrote a post about my experience of overcoming anxiety. One person commented that I’d given them hope and that’s all I need. The fact that I’ve managed to give hope to one person in the world gives me enormous satisfaction in the here and now! By blogging about my experience in the hope it will help others helps me find meaning in the adversity I’ve faced. I’ve made a choice. I could have been beaten by adversity but I’ve chosen to use it for my personal growth and to support others.
This brings me on to the chronic lack of resilience in some young people. The self-pitying whining I’ve witnessed in the press is, quite frankly, embarrassing. I feel embarrassed because there are people in Syria and other parts of the world who have no home, no belongings, have been separated from their families and live in fear of losing their own lives. There are people who are living through the most horrific, barbaric and degrading adversity but they carry on. They have no choice but to carry on because they only other option is to opt out of life altogether. When I was a teacher, I witnessed this lack of resilience in the young children I taught; I saw their defeatist attitude towards the most minor setback. I worked extremely hard to help children build their resilience; I believe it’s one of the most important qualities we can own in life. I had to teach them from scratch that making mistakes and learning from them is one of the best ways to learn; some lessons are forgotten but never the ones where you’ve learnt from your mistakes. I had to teach them about acceptance; that unfairness is a part of life we will experience our entire lives and sometimes even as adults, we can’t change the unfairness, we can only accept it.
Finally, I want to talk about the chronic lack of lateral thinking. Young people of the UK, what brings you joy and satisfaction in the here and now and how can you use it in a creative way (I don’t mean creative in as in artistic. I’m not asking you to draw a picture of yourself playing football or baking a cake)?
I’m going to do some spoon-feeding now, because from what I’ve witnessed, it may be needed. If you love sport or exercise, why not start a team? Why not organise lots of teams and start your own league? Use Facebook and Twitter to publicise it. Make links within your local sporting community and work together; you can find them on Facebook and Twitter! Do it to raise money for charity. If you don’t want to start an adult’s team or league, do it for local children. If you don’t know how to organise it, then research it and find out. Perhaps you can start a running club or start your own boot camp in the park (pool resources with friends) and don’t be under the illusion that it all takes money that you don’t have. Nothing I’ve suggested so far requires any cash. Are you a poet, a writer, an illustrator, a musician, a lover of fashion or technology? Get blogging and show off your ideas and share them with other people. Follow other people’s blogs and see what ideas you could use; get inspired! What would you like to do as a job? Do you need to work for someone else? Setting up your own website needn’t cost any more that £15 a month at the most and with social media, marketing is free. If you keep hearing ‘no’ from employers, go out and do it yourself. Don’t think you’re good enough? Nothing ventured, is nothing gained. It’s your choice but just have a go at exercising some lateral thinking!