Mental illness is rising, but teen girls have taken the worst of it. My take is different than most people’s:
Mixed messages about their worth as human beings. Innate worth or no is the soul’s inner ear. You have to navigate the world with it one way or the other, you can’t navigate it by switching back and forth. Modern psychology seems to think a human’s innate worth is axiomatic when it is, in fact, aspirational. Humans having worth was a Judeo-Christian ideal rooted in God’s commandments and was always something one strived towards as a part of sanctification. It was never a given and one could opt entirely out of this.
Modern psychology took the innate worth ideal and made it a centerpiece of their philosophy not realizing that it’s something people had zero incentive to opt in to. The worth of a person with nothing to offer will not be seen unless the person doing the seeing is commanded to do so and obeys the commandment. Outside the Judeo-Christian system, the command still might be there but it’s more toothless because it comes from modern psychology whose rules are optional rather than Judeo-Christian whose rules are commanded. On a more practical level, it means there is a chasm between how people expect to be treated (as if they have innate worth) and how they are treated (as they don’t). The imperative to value people beyond what they offer becomes an unfinanced mandate.
Lack of kindness in the world. A kinder world is worth more than all the therapists in the world. A culture that doesn’t see people as moral agents suffers because it can’t even measure the problem. Modern psychology wants us to believe that humans are basically good and this sets us up for misery when expectations of people’s behavior don’t match reality. Kindness has been conflated with weakness and is discouraged in many circles. The world is more competitive so one must often play dirty to get ahead.
The other issue is the internet amplifies all the existing unkindness. Bullies used to not have access to people once they left the schoolyard but now with Instagram, they have access 24/7. It doesn’t help that a lot of men are checking out of relating to women in a healthy way and finding misogynistic communities like Redpill/Incel.
Mixed messages about being your “authentic self.” It’s like flooring the gas and the brake. There has never been a time when one was expected to conform and be their “authentic self” simultaneously. You can’t have a blank avatar, you must dress it up, but you have to do it in such a way that expresses your individuality while simultaneously appeasing your peers. And navigating ever-shifting norms handed down by an amorphous authority driven mainly by algorithms.
Young people are kept from ascertaining the blowback of being their “authentic selves.” In the past teens would make the calculation to suppress part of themselves to fit in but that doesn’t happen as much anymore. This is because individual expression is the highest good and being closeted is the worst thing a person can be. I think there is some truth to this, but one must make the calculation carefully which many people aren’t encouraged to do by society anymore.
More knowledge. You would think more knowledge would be good, but it’s not. Part of teen girls’ mental illness struggles stem from seeing how women are treated in society, for example, #metoo. Also, being connected online with older generations, they see how tough it is to make it in the world and how hard finding a good relationship is.
Frequent malignant spaces. For all the criticism one could levy against traditional institutions, their spaces (schools, churches, government, etc..), while being easily corruptible, did not have corruption baked in. One can’t say the same about the spaces teen girls frequent. Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are all designed to keep you addicted and feed you content to get you hooked regardless of whether it’s healthy. YouTube algorithms will provide men with misogynistic Redpill content if they start watching Jordan Peterson videos. Internet companies are not held to a higher good like traditional institutions; they are accountable to their shareholders. That’s how capitalism works (something the younger generation is turning against).
Grim collective future. Modern society is exceptionally individualistic which is an unnatural state of being in the context of most of history. This means our entire mental health treatment program is focused on the atomized individual and as long as our future improves things will look up. But humans are communal creatures and deep down know the hyper-focus on the individual divorced from the larger group is an aberration. A lot of mental illness comes from experiencing and reflecting on things collectively. The lack of kindness in the world, the lack of people to look up to, the dying planet, the refugee crisis, the war on women’s healthcare, threats from AI and adversary nations, etc.. All these things can’t be swept away with breathing exercises. Even if one is well off individually this collective miasma is still playing out in the background. Mindfulness and focusing on the present and the individual self will not help much because we were meant for community and a hopeful future, and we have neither.