In my client practice, I work with many Millennials and Gen Z populationgroups and it is very heartening to see their drive towards an inquiry into their inner self and their understanding of the importance of mental health. The challenge I face is that they also have a strong tendency to becometherapists of sorts or come into the process with hard-core beliefs rooted in their understanding of the human psyche derived from Dr Google. The good news is that challenging the thought process is not very hard and they are flexible and open in wanting to learn and un-learn. The bad news is that those who do not go to mental health professionals are continuing to play mock therapists out there.
Many will come into the first session with self-analysis or analysis of others in their life, having read different psychology-related posts on social media. And by posts, I mean, short blurbs of texts, images, or quotes that combine a few psychological terms, and viola, there is your quickest route to understanding your mental health. They will callously and carelessly throw buzzwords such as ‘Oh he is narcissistic, ‘I was dissociating’, ‘she is depressed’ or ‘have OCD’ which are all mental health conditions that require psychiatric evaluation under different criteria before a diagnosis can be made. This diagnosis they have arrived at is not even borrowed from credible sources, which would be well-known mental health professionals in this case but is mostly copy-pasted from random Instagram posts shared without any knowledge or sense of responsibility by Google therapists.
I have mixed emotions when I sit across a young client sharing the analysis with excitement and confidence. I acknowledge the curiosity and interest in understanding the human psyche and behaviours and the desire to grow and evolve but it also worries me. That isbecause the quack analysis essentially labels people and, in our country, where there is a growing awareness of mental health and curiosity towards therapy, such thoughtless and negative comments turn people away from seeking help, and those who especially need it pay the price for it.
Some of these mental health conditions such as narcissistic personality disorder, dissociation, and obsessive- compulsive disorder for example; are overusedrepeatedlyand have become labels that breed shame and discourage people from seeking therapy.
People don’t realise that narcissism,for exampleis not a choice but rooted in a primary attachment wound that was traumatic and has converted into narcissistic personality disorder for example. Or that having a foggy memory is not necessarily dissociation which is a serious concern and so essentiallywithout understanding the pathology of these conditions, these terms have been casually incorporated into everyday conversation.
It’s a cultural challenge as well and in Pakistan, I do see the tendency in us to become overconfident with very little knowledge. With the majority being illiterate and a small percentage of the literate population having access to high standardsofeducation, the remaining rely heavily on social media to be educated. The culture of lack of accountability in most areas of the country trickles into the attitudeof this generation as well which doesn’t shy away from becoming experts on anythingand everything including mental health.
In the feeble hope that some of the Gen Z might read this, I hope that they convert their seriousness toward mental health in a constructive way. They shouldnormalisetherapy by sharing that they are seeking it and are welcome to share their experience but should shy away from analysing others and becoming experts on other people’s mental health. Let the professionals do their job.