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Anxiety in the Ears and on the Minds of Youth

Music plays an important role in the lives of young people. Remember the songs of your teen years? Every generation in history has felt their own love and deep connection to music including the generation of today. Music is a product of the times and is reflective of the situations it arises from. Some would say that music reveals the prevailing themes of its culture. If that is so, I have noticed as I scroll through the hundreds of channels and watch on Vimeo and YouTube a theme in today's music that seems to spread across every genre: anxiety.

From pop or Top 40 music…

"All my friends, they don't know what it's like, what it's like

They don't understand why I can't sleep through the night
I've been told that I could take something to fix it
I wish it was that simple."

Anxiety by Julia Michaels

"Feel my blood runnin', swear the sky's fallin'
I keep on breathin'
Time goes by and I can't control my mind
I keep on breathin'"

Breathin by Ariana Grande

From alternative rock…

"wish my mind would turn off
But here in the dark, everything off
I start to think
It gets hard to breathe
I'm in over my head
All these thoughts
Are an ocean I'm drowning in."

Over My Head by Judah & The Lion

"Up at night, feeling down, and I'm all alone
Hide away from it all, in a stranger's home. Is it me? Is it you?
Can I trust myself? I need somehow
I'm fine don't ask
The truth is. The nightmares underneath, it's useless
Oh well, who cares? The truth is the monster in my head is ruthless."

The New Great Depression by The Moth and the Flame

From country music…

"I'm sorry, but I'm just a girl
Not usually the kind to show my heart to the world
I'm pretty good at keeping it together
I hold my composure, for worse or for better
So I apologize if you don't like what you see
But sometimes my emotions get the best of me
And falling apart is as human as it gets
You can't hide it, you can't fight what the truth is."

Cry Pretty by Carrie Underwood

This theme can also be found in contemporary Christian music…

"keep fighting voices in my mind that say I'm not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know."

What You Say by Lauren Daigle
It seems reasonable to view patterns of content in popular music as a reflection of trends in youth culture and of individual concerns of adolescents. Anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety disorders are feelings of worry or fear that do not go away and that can get worse over time. These feelings can interfere with a person's daily life and can have an impact on their relationships as well as their work or school. Conditions such as anxiety and depression, especially when undiagnosed, can be risk factors for suicide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that suicide rates have increased by 25 percent across the United States over the last two decades—and more than half of those who died by suicide had never been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Currently, suicide is the third most common cause of death in 10- to 14-year-olds, as well as in older teens and young, college-age adults. It is safe to say that we have a critical mental health crisis.

In May of 2018, the bishops of California released a pastoral letter called "Hope and Healing: On Caring for those who Suffer from Mental Illness." In their letter they say, "we are deeply concerned with the heartbreaking prevalence of mental illness in our society and are taking action to address this tragic form of misery and sorrow. Though not as apparent and familiar as general medical problems, mental illness is equally important and is uniquely challenging and burdensome." They go on to say, "These disturbing trends seriously impact individuals, families and our communities.These crises of our time represent an urgent call to all Catholics. We must respond."

If you do not personally suffer from anxiety or depression, there is no way to know what it really feels like. You can, however, follow Jesus' example and show compassion by both understanding another's pain and having the desire to somehow lessen that pain. For those of you who are ministering with young people, open your eyes and ears and look for the signs that your young people are showing you. It's hard for us to say we didn't know so many young people were hurting when the music that is defining their generation is filled with such pain.

Serving in the Sun
Best of Youth Ministry Access for May