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Searching for Connection in All the Wrong Places: Millennials Battle High Levels of Anxiety and Depression


BOSTON, Mass. – Jordan Flores was in High School when she first started to feel anxious. She didn't like who she saw in the mirror. By college, anxiety became full-blown depression, fueled by what she saw on social media.

"I followed a lot of health and fitness accounts and through that, they are constantly feeding you what you're supposed to look like, what you're supposed to be like, how you're supposed to dress, all of those different things, how you're supposed to be eating. I let that control my lifestyle," Flores told CBN News.

That resulted in an eating disorder.

"I hated myself at that point. At the moment, I wouldn't have even been able to recognize myself. Physically I looked a little bit the same but I wasn't happy, I wasn't able to connect with people, I had severe anxiety when it even came to going out to dinner with people, I wasn't able to do that anymore. Every part of my life revolved around my mental illness and I was unable to actually see that," Flores explained.

Millennials in Massachusetts have the highest rate of depression in the entire US, specifically millennial women.

But why? Neil Hubacker, of the Massachusetts Family Institute, believes it's linked to how his state has dealt with religion and the family.

"When we've de-constructed things so much, we've created a whole generation that wonders, 'Who am I, whose am I, where am I going?' Hubacker explains.

He points out that this depression is greatest where many of the countries top universities are located.

"It seems like in our exaltation of the mind or in our exaltation of the human, the self, at the expense of not worshiping God anymore, think of Romans 1 and what Paul describes in Romans 1, in that I think that there is something at work here, something spiritual at play," Hubacker says.

'Achievement Arms Race' 

In dealing with this challenge, Boston area pastors recognize some generational factors at play. One of those being the desire or pressure to achieve more than their peers. 

Adam Mabry is the pastor of Aletheia Church in Cambridge and while he sees this in his young congregation, he first saw it in himself.

"In about late 2013 our church was growing quickly, we had a new baby that wasn't sleeping well, we had a house that I was remodeling and a degree I was trying to finish. Up to that point I'd always been able to push past my problems with more achievement, put in a few more hours and we'll get over them. I was not able to push past those problems and I hit a wall and went into a pretty deep depressive state for awhile" Mabry told CBN News. 

Mabry knew he needed rest, but realized he had to first learn that discipline. That led him to write a book called The Art of Rest.

"One of the things that came out of that experience, one of the things the Lord taught me, is that rest is how I experience joy in Him. Not just doing things for Him, but stopping to be with Him," Mabry said.

Millennials' need for success is exacerbated by the ability to follow their peers 24/7. 

"Being able to see one another achieve things and see one another do or not doing things, created this more intense achievement arms race," says Mabry.

That's where Jordan Flores found herself.

"Society expects people to be a certain way, so there was always that feeling of I'm not good enough, I'm not good enough, I need to be different, I need to change myself," she said.

The Role of the Church

Flores was unable to break free, until turning to God.

"It wasn't until I actually came to church and I joined our young adult group and I made connections with people who really cared for me and really wanted to see me healthier that I started to actually have change in my life," Flores said.

 Mabry says that's the Church's strength; wading into the hard topics, the pain, and the mess.

"The Christian church should be a hospital for sinners and what unites us isn't that we're all great people and we look great, what unites us is that we're all in desperate need of Gods grace and mercy," Mabry told CBN News.

Jordan and her husband Marco now lead the youth group at Metro Church in Marlboro, Massachusetts. She says her depression fight opened a door to reach the upcoming generation, 70 percent of whom already say depression and anxiety are huge problems.

"We can't take away technology, it's part of our life, it's part of our world. However, a community can help shape how we use our social media, it can shape how we interact with each other, how we're using it, and so I think the key is to be around people who are just going to love on you and show you life," said Flores.

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