Today is the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. These attacks changed our Country and the world our children now grow up in. Anyone who is over 30 years old grew up in a world where there were good times and then there were bad times. So people over 30 years old learned that life has ups and downs. However, for anyone born in the year 2000 or later, this is not their experience of the world.
The majority of people who are under 30 years old have grown up in a world where there has been one tragedy after another. People in this generation have experienced the tragedy of 9/11 attacks, the wars in Iran and Afghanistan, and hearing nightly on the news about terrorist attacks and terrorist threats.
In addition to hearing about terrorist attacks around the world children growing up in the current generation have also had to deal with mass shootings at schools, and shopping centers. No one who is over 30 years old had to deal with mass school shootings throughout the country while they were growing up. Furthermore in addition to the violence that the current generation has had to endure they have also had to deal with the uncertain financial situation of our country. Children in this generation have heard about the possibility of the economy collapsing and in addition many children in this generation have experienced their parents losing their jobs and as a result also losing their homes. Our country has not experienced such a high rate of unemployment and homelessness since the Great Depression of 1929.
What has this done to our children? From my experience as a psychotherapist who works with children and teens, I have seen a devastating impact on children growing up today. Many of the children I work with carry knives with them. They tell me they need the knives for protection. Many of the kids I treat have told me, they don’t know if they will live to be 30 because of today’s violence.
I have also seen an increase an increase in depression. With the violence children experience at school and when their family cannot afford housing or food, they see no hope for a future. Yes in the United States, there are many children who are homeless and hungry. In fact, the rate of homelessness and hunger for children is higher in the United States than some third world countries.
As a result, many children and teenagers are looking for an escape and they are finding ways. The suicide rate in our country has increased every year. Children as young as 8 years old are committing suicide. In addition to suicide, children and teenagers are turning to drugs. We are not talking about marijuana, we are talking about meth, crack and heroin and new drugs such as Pink and Coco. If you go on to any middle school campus in the United States today, you can find whatever drug you want. As drug use has increased so have the number of children overdosing on drugs. In the United States, approximately 125 kids overdose on drugs every day and the number is climbing.
In addition to these factors, gangs and crime among teenagers are on the rise. Why are they on the rise? The teens believe their fellow gang members will help protect them if someone tries to jump them. Since they have no faith in the economy, the only way to get what you need is to steal it. They see no problem in what they are doing because they feel they are just living by the rules that the adults have established.
This is no way for a child to grow up. They should not have to be afraid of being killed because of their religion, race or sexual orientation. The feelings that I have described above cross all lines in our society. I have heard these feelings from white teens, African-American teens, Hispanic teens etc. I have also heard these feelings from teenagers whose families are very well to do and those that are homeless.
In addition, many parents are alarmed at the violent video games that their teenagers are playing. In my opinion, teens are turning to these games because they give teenagers a sense of control. In reality teenagers have very little control over what is happening in the world. Also many now need to worry about being deported besides the violence they have to endure daily. The video game is an escape and it provides them a sense of control over the violence. In the games they are not the victims, they are in charge.
What do we do? We need to take a good hard look at ourselves and our society and decide to work together to change. Even with all this despair, I have seen teenagers pull together and do positive things with their lives and to help others. There are still people who are willing to do acts of kindness for people they don’t know. We can change things but we must work together. We cannot afford anyone who wants to move in a way to make us feel more alone and helpless. Take a lesson from our teenagers, if we work together we can accomplish amazing changes.
I have seen acts of kindness and I see the out pouring of support for those in Texas and Florida. There still is good in our world. As the adults we need to band together and show the teenagers that things are not hopeless. We need to point out the positive and ask our teens to join us.
In the meantime, watch your children for signs of depression, anxiety or drug use and if you notice signs you are concerned about get your child assessed by a mental health clinician.
Dr. Michael Rubino is an expert at treating teenagers and children. He has been treating teens and children for over 20 years for more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.