In our current world of uncertainty, accelerated by the explosion of the COVID-19 world pandemic, many people whose career or education have been stalled by the virus have been forced into a far more introverted, uneventful lifestyle than previously. The necessity for shelter-in-place has introduced millions to a way of living that, without most people even knowing, approximates a life that ten million people in America (according to the Pew Research Center) live for years at a time.
NEETs (standing for people Not in Education, Employment, or Training) are mostly young people 18 – 29 years-old who, because of issues with mental health, trauma, or political or economic alienation, have chosen to shut themselves off from broader society. This has become a global issue, with the term NEET originating in the United Kingdom before coming into prominence across the world to describe this seemingly universal trend of social withdrawal.
Japan, in particular, has been experiencing and documenting this phenomenon for perhaps the longest, with the term hikikomori (translating to along the lines of ‘acute social withdrawal’) being used to name an increasing segment of the population who, burned out by the high pressure of working life in Japan and alienated from society, have withdrawn permanently from their homes and almost never leave, and are often considered ‘modern hermits.’
Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to this social or emotional alienation. There are, however, possible strategies. Productively addressing this issue often requires a shift from viewing NEETs as personally sick to an acceptance that this is a complex, family issue. Other members of the family impacted or in collusion with the dynamic. By necessity, most NEETs (though certainly not all) come from middle to upper-class backgrounds, and their basic expenses are typically paid for by an allowance from their parents. A simple withdrawal of resources is not, however, a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, a better place to start is mental health care and support for the whole family. Finally, one outgrowth of this era of bubble living and restrained socialization is an increased empathy for those living without the skills or capacity to change this when socializing and crowds are again woven in the texture of our lives.
Should this be an all too familiar concern in your house, like many others right now, please consider the following:
- Connection Helps: Attempt connection by joining with them surrounding an interest of theirs
- Moderation Helps: A slow or gradual introduction to life engagement and activities that promote independence may be appropriate and more efficient in the long run. Slow and steady growth wins this race.
- Compassion Helps: Engaging with a struggling loved one requires enormous patience, compassion, and empathy at a really difficult time- don’t hesitate to get outside help should your personal reserves run dry.