Saturday, January 30, 2010

Under Pressure. Of Both Kinds.

Scrolling through You Tube a couple of nights ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find all 18 episodes of a 90’s TV show that I haven’t seen since, well…,the 90’s. Game-On is centred around three 20 somethings, each with their own hang-ups, sharing a flat in Battersea, London. The interaction of three very different, yet somehow similar, characters is both funny and thought provoking. Though it’s essentially a comedy, it portrays the time between the end of education and ‘settling down’ as confusing, misleading and sometimes downright frightening. This reminded me of a recent interview I heard somewhere where the interviewee commented on the early mid life period (approx. age 20-40) as being the toughest in his life.

I’m turning 24 next week so, having a vested interest in the subject, i started thinking some more. Definitely, there is a certain sense that I have to make some big decisions in the next few years. Sometimes I wonder how much of this ‘sense’ is me. There seem to be so many questions to answer. 'What do you want to do in life?' 'Where do you see yourself in ten years?' What's your plan?' . It’s time for action. A time to make myself secure. I’ve finished my prep, it’s time to enter the race. My career. Expectation. Pressure. Some of us will settle for the comfort of security; doing jobs which serve merely to pay the bills. Others will resist, and focus on finding the job that meets their criteria for satisfaction, whether it be lots of money or a simple sense of job enjoyment. Whatever the job one chooses, it stands to reason that it will come to have a massive impact on their lives. It will dictate their place of living, their type of dwelling and what type of people they will dwell with. It will separate their time of work from their time of leisure. It will also regulate their financial situation and consequently what car they will drive, what holidays they will take and what they can afford to spend on others. This modus operandi usually aspires to the ultimate goal of securing a mortgage, which can be cynically termed as lifelong debt. So the pressure isn’t going away. On the contrary, it’s almost as if we’re under pressure to ‘qualify’ for yet more pressure.

Recently, we have been reminded that the whole world of employment, occupation and career can be as fickle as a series of dodgy choices by society's financiers. The whole idea of the modern way of life has been shaken to its core by a collapse of what we thought was a solid and hard earned prosperity. Fear is rampant as we desperately turn to our politicians to right the wrongs of the day. They look back at us with a sense of apologetic helplessness as if to say 'Didn't you know that it was all built on chance?'. Many have been left jobless and destitute. Without the regular arrival of a pay cheque, they have been left feeling vulnerable and lost. The sudden shift from 'You Can Do Anything You Want!' to 'It's Not About What You Want!' has left the so-called 'BOOM' generation in a state of uncertainty and disillusion. The Celtic Tiger era is now painted as some sort of bliss (evidently ignorant) where life was good and our worries were scarce. Yet suicide demographics indicate that the year 2000 saw the highest level of suicides in records that stretch back to 1950, with those aged between 15 and 44 worst affected.

Of course, in our recent prosperity, there were other more universal concerns that we, like all others, had to burden. These concerns haven't gone away. Instead, they now run parallel to the worries of living in a time where opportunity seems absent. They can be described as what we usually term as 'personal issues'. Our defects. Our worries about ourselves and where we fit into all of this. Our belief in ourselves, or lack there of. Our weaknesses. The things we keep to ourselves for fear of others judgement. At this turning point away from dependence to independence, we may start to ask questions of ourselves, 'Am i up to this?', 'Can i really make it?' Nagging complexes can unearth out of their deeply buried dormancy and rush to the forefront of our minds. Not only does they affect our professional lives and our confidence to live them, they can also have a drastic effect on how we interact with other people. If we choose to leave these problems unaddressed, they grow stronger and we start to believe them even more. They might even isolate us, depending on the degree of our 'issues'. It's more probable that most of us will figure out some way of coping with them. But that doesn't mean that they won't continue to influence our modes of behaviour in a detrimental way. They could be the difference in holding back when we really need to move forward. They could keep us sitting down when we really could stand up. They could be the breakdown of friendships, or of a romantic relationship. They could create defence mechanisms that make us seem aggressive when we really want to be benevolent. Eventually, they could be the baggage we pass on to our offspring; the ones that we will influence more than we could ever imagine. Along the way, we may find ourselves holding our heads between our hands; frustrated that we are misunderstood and unable to be who we feel we really are.

Is it really such a surprise that young people, or anyone for that matter, can feel left behind in life? Is it so wrong if we feel a little weak from time to time? If we feel like our head isn't in the right place? And is it so wrong if we tell each other? Is it that unfathomable that some find it all too much to bare? Aren't the pressures of career and financial security enough? Any reasonable person would think so. However, a recent article in the Irish Times revealed that lots of us still just don't want to know. The most startling statistic is that 40% of those surveyed think that undergoing mental health treatment means that we have failed in some way.. It also reported that one third of those questioned regard people with psychological problems as being below average intelligence. The same amount said that they wouldn't want to be friends with someone who had a mental health problem... What is going on? Why are we so stubborn in hanging on to such vicious thinking? Are we so well-rounded? So stable? So perfectly comfortable with our own existence that we reject people who are not? I doubt it..

Sources of information used in this entry can be found in the following locations

Irish Times article on recent survey done on attitude toward mental health (October 2009)-

World Health Organisation suicide study; Irish statistics (2008)-

For more information on mental health issues in Ireland, visit these locations-

Oh and if you want to watch Game-on, go here

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