Are We Mental Health-ing Ourselves to Mediocrity?

On the surface, mental health is a noble concept that ensures that we “take care of ourselves.”

According to the World Health Organization, mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life.

That is a fair definition. These days, mental health discussions dominate our society’s discourse. Some say for the better. I’d argue it’s for the worse. After observing the current trends, especially among younger millennials and Generation Z, mental health is becoming an excuse to avoid responsibility and a means to settle for mediocrity.

Yes, I’m technically a millennial (of the early eighties). While working as a trainee journalist from 2009, it was normal for the editor to harangue a writer for a poor article. At the time, I was, admittedly, petty. I felt wronged for being shouted out and embarrassed for being corrected. However, a few hours later, it hit me.

The editor was giving constructive criticism, and (dare I say) that’s what editors do. Perhaps their delivery mode wasn’t the best (and stung my then-fragile ego), but I needed it. After I got over my self-importance, I noticed something…I was becoming a better journalist. I continued to swallow my pride and not let the criticism bother me as much. I kept putting effort into my craft, I kept applying my boss’ harsh love, and I kept seeing positive results.

Fast forwarding to 2023, I have a few awards under my belt for outstanding reporting, specifically on agriculture and rural livelihoods in Africa.

I point that out because I’m Kenyan. And what I have observed on X (formerly Twitter) is several threads from various employers who have trouble dealing with “spoiled and entitled” young millennials and Gen Zs. Apparently, this demographic is labeled “easily triggered” when things get too tough. They are now described derogatory as the entitled generation, andthis hilarious X thread is proof.

In 2022, polarizing comedian and TV host Bill Maher did a monologue rant on millennials’ entitlement and fragile egos. In the monologue, he quoted an anecdote of how millennials (after getting hired by major studios in Los Angeles) started complaining within six months of not being promoted to a producer role. Maher also discussed how millennials’ sensitivity results in a toxic work culture.

During the monologue, he talked about the saga between Washington Post (WaPo) reporters David Weigel and Felicia Sonmez. Weigel obliviously retweeted something that Sonmez perceived to be a sexist joke. She went into a Twitter rage, and Weigel ended up getting suspended. But here’s the plot twist: Sonmez got fired for her “unhinged” Twitter rants.

This is an era of sensitivity.

Imagine a work environment where you always worry about speaking because you might offend someone. Such a toxic workplace doesn’t foster teamwork.

As a proud but puzzled Kenyan, let me put a different spin on this mental health issue by comparing the West and the Third World. An eastern millennial or Gen Z working to survive on a dangerous mine in DR Congo would be amused at the fragility of Western millennials. A young miner would swap everything to work in a so-called “toxic” company in America. Why? Because that “toxic” workplace is what someone in another part of the world would consider a huge blessing.

Now, I’m not saying that caring for your mental health is a weakness. But I’m arguing that this generation needs to build resilience because life is hard, and a smooth sea never makes a skilled sailor.

James Karuga

James Karuga

James Karuga is an award-winning freelance print journalist and filmmaker from Kenya. His articles has been published by media like, Reuters, Bluedot Living, Next Billion, How We Made It Africa, Spore Magazine and Ark Republic.


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