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Doctors are hurting 20somethings by prescribing quick-fix pills

“There is a young adult mental health crisis in America … So many twentysomethings are struggling yet, as a culture, we’re not sure what to think or do,” writes Dr. Meg Jay.

A developmental clinical psychologist, Jay has spent 25 years specializing in the treatment of young adult patients. In her new book, “The Twentysomething Treatment: A Revolutionary Remedy for an Uncertain Age,” out April 9, she argues the 20s is an especially difficult decade — and medication can actually make things harder in the long term.

“It’s a really, really difficult time because it’s the only decade of life where everything is uncertain, everything is unsettled,” Jay told The Post. “The brain doesn’t like that. It’s very stressful and it makes people feel depressed and anxious”

But by medicating rather than learning how to actually deal with the stress of change, young people are potentially setting themselves up for disaster later on.

“Twentysomethings are more likely to be put on meds just even after one visit to their GP,” Jay explained. “They’re often receiving a diagnosis and some medication pretty quickly for what are actually developmentally normal, temporary situational stressors.”

She writes: “We’re quick to pathologize them and hold out diagnoses and medications to twentysomethings whose brains and lives are still on the move.”

Jay’s book teaches twentysomethings the importance of being truly social in the social media age, loving despite the risk of heartbreak, making decisive decisions and concentrating on “what is” more than “what if” — all of which, she says are important pillars of the foundation for a healthy, well-adjusted adult life.

Without those skills, people are left to struggle through the uncertainty of their 20s, and depend on medication instead of self-actualization.

Dr. Meg Jay argues the 20s are a difficult and defining decade in her new book.

Although she has seen twentysomethings struggle throughout her quarter-century career, Dr. Jay says medical professionals only more recently began over-prescribing medication to them.

“As long as I’ve been doing this, the twenties have been a mental health low point,” Jay, a faculty member at the University of Virginia, said. “It’s actually not new that twentysomethings are struggling. It’s just new that people are talking about it.

Jay is a faculty member at the University of Virginia. AFP via Getty Images

She added, “Twenty years ago, it was pretty rare for clients in my practice to be on medication. Now, I think the attitude is more is more — that medication only has upsides.”

But Jay, who is also the author of the 2012 bestseller “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now,” argues that twentysomethings more often need a gentle, guiding hand rather than medication.

Jay says that many young people today are being prescribed medication too quickly. wutzkoh – stock.adobe.com

“In a nutshell, my approach with young adults is skills over pills,” she explained. “Whether it’s work or love or finances or friends, I try to help twentysomethings develop the skills they need to improve their mental health.”

That’s why her book includes a dozen “how to” chapters for life skills — including how to love, how to work, how to be social, how to cook, and even how to have sex.

“The Twentysomething Treatment” is out April 9.
By medicating rather than learning how to actually deal with the stress of change, young people are potentially setting themselves up for disaster later on. LightRocket via Getty Images

“There’s a lot of research behind the twenties being a developmental sweet spot,” Jay explained. “A lot of twentysomethings just need a small adjustment or some good advice or six months or a year, and then their lives can really transition.”

And while she is, of course, a proponent and practitioner of clinical treatment, she also hopes “The Twentysomething Treatment” can help people who maybe just need some solid advice.

“Therapy is really not accessible or affordable for most people. I really wrote the book to try to change that — to say you may not need a therapist for $200 an hour every single week. Maybe I can give you everything I’ve got right here in this book,” Jay said.

Jay’s book includes “how to” chapters for life skills — including how to love, how to work, how to be social, how to cook, and even how to have sex. Yakobchuk Olena – stock.adobe.com

She told The Post that, while she’s glad parents, educators and therapists have taken interest in her approach, she wrote the book for twentysomethings themselves. She said she hears daily from young people who found her through her books and ask whether they can be her client, or how to find a therapist who also specializes in their age group.

“I hope their number one takeaway is hope,” Jay said. “People hear the twenties are the best years of life. They’re probably not going to be. Life gets better as people move through their twenties into their thirties, forties, fifties and beyond.”

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