Can Coaching Help Gen Z from Breaking?

Apr 25, 2024

“Post-millennials kept asking me and it was totally surprising to me that the question was, how do I make friends? I never heard that question before on a campus of 50,000 people. Why are you asking me the old man on the corner of Campus how to make friends, just walk outside your dorm room and talk to 50,000 people from all over the world…at that point I began to realize that really underneath what I was seeing, the depression, the anxiety, the suicidality was an epidemic of loneliness our students were really lonely in the age of social media. They didn’t feel connected at all; they actually felt anti-social.

If you asked your phone you would think this is the worst time in human history to live but if you have an understanding of history you realize this is actually the best time in human history to live. I can’t think of a single time I would rather be alive than right now.”

Dr Varun Soni, Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California

These are excerpts from a conversation between Pranav Ramanathan, CEO, Coacharya, and Prof Varun Soni, Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California. The discussion, part of a webinar on Coaching a Silent Pandemic: Loneliness in our Youth, discussed loneliness, depression, and suicidal tendencies among Gen Z, and how coaching might be a solution.

Varun looks after the spiritual health of a Gen Z community of over 50,000 at USC. He is a JD lawyer, a PhD in Religious Studies, spent time in a Buddhist monastery in Bodh Gaya, and is a practising Hindu, who is multi-religious. Varun experiences suicidal tendencies at 5% in his Gen Z, which keep going up even as more therapists and counselors are engaged to help. Pranav explored with Varun the role coaching can play in helping Gen Z from breaking up and breaking down.

Varun’s Observations:

  • Loss of Religion: Varun sees a decline in religious affiliation as a major factor. He believes religion can offer a sense of purpose and belonging, which many Gen Z youth lack.
  • Rise of Social Media: Varun argues that social media is designed to be addictive and anxiety-inducing. It replaces the supportive role of religion with a platform that thrives on keeping users anxious and outraged.

Loss of Faith Creates a Ripple Effect:

Varun suggests that the decline in religious faith leads to a broader loss of trust – in parents, teachers, leaders, and even oneself. During our discussion, he said, “I don’t think of religion as an opportunity to think about what it means to be God I think a religion is an opportunity to think about  what it means to be human.” Social media becomes a way to seek validation from strangers, highlighting the underlying loneliness.

Varun’s 4 Pillars for Supporting Gen Z:

  • Truth: What are your core values and beliefs? What gives your life meaning?
  • Time: How do you spend your time? Prioritize activities that matter most.
  • Tribe: Who are your close friends and family? Surround yourself with supportive people.
  • Transcendence: Seek experiences that inspire and uplift you.

Coaching as a Solution

Varun believes coaching can bridge the gap between traditional therapy and religion. It allows young people to be seen, heard, and develop strategies to navigate their challenges. He said, “I think the future is coaching. I think coaching can kind of be the middle ground between the mental health approach and the purely religious approach. It can honor aspects of both without being either. I don’t think most young people who go to counseling are in a full-blown crisis. I think what they need is to be seen and heard honestly. They don’t need to be judged.”

Coacharya’s Approach to Spiritual Coaching

We at Coacharya believe all coaching should have a spiritual element. We focus on the “energy core” of a person and their interconnectedness with the world.  Our coaching process incorporates Varun’s 4 pillars and emphasizes setting positive intentions, building connections, and achieving a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Join the Conversation!

Feeling overwhelmed by the pressures facing Gen Z? Interested in learning more about how coaching can help? Join us for a fireside chat with Dr. Varun Soni on Youth Spiritual Wellness during International Coaching Week! In this session, Varun will delve deeper into the challenges faced by Gen Z and explore how coaching can empower young people to build resilience, find meaning, and thrive in today’s world. Don’t miss this opportunity for valuable insights and a chance to ask your questions!

Coacharya is proud to be associated with the International Coaching Federation in celebrating the ICW. Watch this space for our speaker lineup and themes for the ICW.

Photo by Sinitta Leunen on Unsplash

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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