Vail Valley Voices: We’ve really set up our kids
Vail, CO, Colorado
If you read my previous article on “The Leaded Generation,” you have some idea of my opinion of my generation, the baby boomers, who’ve collectively flushed more opportunity away than any generation in history.
In that piece, I only partially tongue-in-cheek attributed our mass stupidity to, perhaps, the billions of tons of tetra-ethyl lead pumped into our environment by the major oil companies as we grew up, enough to make the Roman’s lead-pipe problem look irrelevant to their demise.
I failed in that piece, however, to address what might be the largest of our generation’s “accomplishments.”
For decades, we baby boomers have watched and actively participated in an ever-rising divorce rate. I’m as guilty as anyone and not proud to admit I’ve been divorced. Twice. That known and regretted daily, we boomers have become single and divorced parents in sheer numbers unknown before in human history.
At the same time, many of those who managed to stay together entrusted their children’s growth and development to the same day-care providers and institutions that the single parents were forced to use, since inflation and falling wages nationwide wiped out most people’s ability to support a family on one income 30 years ago.
The results of our collective behavior have been long in arriving, but the so-called millennial generation has arrived. They might be better known by many of its members as the “divorced generation,” which has grown up spending more time in institutions ” day care, kindergarten, school, after-school programs, etc. ” and which has spent more time with television or video games than with a family of related human beings.
The result of my generation’s enormous social experiment with the out-sourcing of parenting and child rearing is that our teenage and newly grown children are not feeling very good.
According to a recent story by The Associated Press, almost one in five young American adults has a personality disorder that interferes with everyday life, and even more abuse alcohol or drugs. The disorders include problems such as obsessive or compulsive tendencies and anti-social behavior that can sometimes lead to violence. The same study also found that fewer than 25 percent of college-aged Americans with mental problems get any treatment.
According to the wire service, experts have praised the study’s scope ” face-to-face interviews about numerous disorders with more than 5,000 young people ages 19 to 25 ” and say it “spotlights a problem college administrators need to address.”
Counting substance abuse, the study found that nearly half of young people surveyed have some sort of psychiatric condition.
Let’s take a deep breath and think about this. There are about 91 million young people making up the “divorce generation.” More than 45 million of these young adults are estimated to have some sort of “psychiatric condition.” That’s half of the next staff of every business, shop, office, school faculty, power plant, half of the airline pilots, soldiers, lawyers, legislators. Half of the next generation’s work force is arriving at adulthood with “some form of psychiatric condition.”
This is a problem for more than college administrators. This is a societal tragedy, a calamity and a huge problem for the country. Psychiatric conditions today are not “cured,” they are “managed.” Managed from the mild side of the spectrum with antidepressants and anti-anxiety agents. Powerful mood stabilizers and anti-psychotic drugs are freely doled out to those who reside on the severe side of the diagnosis spectrum, if they can afford them. Psychiatry, when it is obtained, is a process of “finding the right drug and the right dose.”
Mental management with these designer prescription drugs in our age of pre-employment drug screening ” which our generation invented so that employers can detect these legal substances as a predictor of possible unstable behavior in the workplace just as commonly as they are used to detect illegal drug use ” will preclude “good” employment for the millions who seek and get treatment.
My generation’s present system of private health insurance is simply not available to people who have a psychiatric diagnosis or have taken psychiatric drugs. Since many young people are, hopefully, smarter than their parents, even though they suffer from our “upbringing,” many will not seek help at all, knowing they will have to earn a living or buy insurance someday. This may account for the recent study’s finding that only 25 percent of these young people have asked for help.
My present better half points out, to be fair, that this is also an opportunity of unparalleled proportions for the 45 million other millennials who survived childhood with fewer scars. They’ll be working double-time and raking in the bucks as they try to keep the lights on for everyone. But sadly, they’ll have to be taxed at much higher rates than my generation’s seen fit for itself, especially if they have to pay for their parents’ golden years, too.
We have really set our kids up, haven’t we?
Ignoring our spendthrift lives that have already saddled each of these young people with nearly three years of full-time work just to pay off the debt we’ve acquired in their names during the past year, we’ve left many of them troubled, ill-suited for adult life and even under-employable. And yet we still expect them to fund our retirements!
The most common disorder revealed by this large and well-regarded study is obsessive-compulsive disorder, which has no effective treatment. Post-traumatic stress disorder, the result of just growing up in many divorced families, is common, also. A new disorder, now common enough to get its own terminology and name, “parental alienation syndrome,” caused by divorced parents who poison the post-divorce relationships with their kid’s “other” parent, has caused and continues to cause members of families to lose contact with one another completely in many millions of severe cases, often for years or even forever.
Some people, including myself, are surprised by the lack of open discussion of this situation by young people themselves. Frankly, if I were in my 20s right now and being handed the empty plate my parents were leaving me, along with the bill for the dinner that had been on it, I would be sorely peeved.
Of course, if about half of these young people hardly even know their parents and rejected one or both of them as they grew up during their parent’s divorce(s), perhaps they’ve got nobody left to focus their dissatisfaction on. Or more likely, they don’t discuss it with people my age, since we were the perps.
Mr. Obama’s election may have been the beginning of the millennial generation’s awakening. We parents should be very, very glad that he’s not an angry fellow but instead an educated man who evidently believes in uniting people, a man who brings people together to solve problems.
If we expect our kids to pay for our own unfunded social security, we’re going to need a lot of uniting with them. We’ll have to get to know the 45 million kids we didn’t spend much more than holidays and every other weekend with before we met at the ex’s or a fast food joint for the “kid hand-off” until the next visit.
Perhaps they’ll come to like us. After all, we’re their parents. I’m not putting short odds on that, though.
Bill Sepmeier is a longtime resident of Eagle County.