what Gen Z's "armchair psychologist" reveals about the modern state of mental health

“Is this Sandra?” 

“Yes”. She can barely contain her excitement.  

“Tell me everything. Tell me nothing” 

He sits in a leather armchair. Generic elevator music faintly plays amidst a green screen background of galloping buffalo herds or the all-too-familiar rainforest. The vibe is quite similar to one of those 90s public access shows, programs pushed back into the weirdest and most idiosyncratic hours past midnight, though this production is much better.

The host is wearing a bright green gecko costume, topped off with green face paint. A variety of people call in throughout the night, all with a variety of problems and grievances, many of which are compiled into podcast format weekly.   

He is the beloved Therapy Gecko. 

The show is a recent one, airing in 2020 when everyone was stuck at home with nothing to do and has only exploded in popularity nearly two years later. Many see it as indicative of the general consensus in regards to Gen-Z humor: somewhat baseless, eccentric, and at times entirely nonsensical.

Looking deeper, however, it becomes apparent that Therapy Gecko is not merely some offbeat experiment in Adult Swim-esque humor. It is also an indictment of the world Gen-Z has found themselves neck deep in with little to no recourse. 

Humor as a method of coping

One of the most admirable aspects of Gen-Z that no generation previously seemed to have is an incredible sense of self awareness. They know what they are and what everyone views them as. Gone are the days of the Baby Boomers’ self-centered, unempathetic strive for control and preservation. Similarly is the rejection of the millennial generation’s innate ability to realize many of them have become what they dislike the most; self-unaware with  the tendency to direct hyper criticism to the next generation, criticism both previous generations had towards them. 

Gen Z could not be more different. They have taken the internet by storm and utilized it to its full potential to create endless content. Taking a look at a great deal of this content, it is apparent that much of it is humorous in tone. Most of it pokes fun at themselves, the perils of growing up, and most importantly, the society they were born into. 

The world around them is in the driver’s seat and much of Gen-Z feels like a backseat passenger with no control. Turmoil, both internationally and domestically, has plagued much of Gen-Z’s time on this planet. 

The difference is that instead of deciding to cry, they have decided to laugh. 

A guy in a gecko costume, to many callers, is the closest thing to therapy they can get. Their educational institutes more often than not have failed them in mental health resources, many of which are underfunded and blocked by a paywall. To Gen Z, their only option is being able to  laugh at their situation by talking to a living gecko. 

While it may not be a certified form of self treatment, humor  unites Gen-Z as a legitimate response to being tossed around by a world out of their control. 

Wanting to be heard without judgment   

One of the most significant problems that both Gen-Z and millennials face is not being listened to. 

“There are people with worse problems than you.” 

This is a statement that many young people have heard from their elders. Rather than support their children in getting the help that they need, parents and guardians instead minimize their problems entirely or even outright deny it. 

An interesting aspect about Therapy Gecko is his response to callers. Many of the people who call in for legitimate advice, more often than not, are not told what to do. The playbook of Therapy Gecko in most interactions is to ask questions or  sit back and let the caller talk. He talks when  necessary, but most of his conversations are allowing the caller to work out their next step themselves. 

While a lot of the calls involve people seeking advice, this is not always the case. Some include a woman who recalls a story about a hash brown fight at Dunkin Donuts and a man who saved a kid from choking on spaghetti.There is even a whole conversation where a man talks about how he believes his newborn son will one day grow up to be a mailman.

All of these stories have one thing in common: people who want someone to listen. They cannot tell their friends or family some of these stories or predicaments for fear of judgment or ostracization… and most do not have the means to find a therapist. 

It is much easier to discuss pretty much anything with someone who gives into the ridiculousness of dressing up as a gecko, and best of all, they will listen.  

Systematic failures = DIY 

Mental health services have seen a vast improvement since the days where one could be institutionalized for nearly anything against what was considered the “norm”. 

Yet, there is still much to be desired.

Unlike other countries, a great deal of mental health resources are tucked deep behind a paywall. Health insurance costs a fortune this day and age with many struggling to find adequate treatment for physical and mental struggles. For many, the healthcare system is deeply flawed and in need of dire improvement. 

Callers and listeners alike often find a great deal of solace in Therapy Gecko. While he points out (more than enough times) that he is not even close to a therapist or mental health professional, his advice is sound. He does not attempt to diagnose or come to any sweeping conclusions like many armchair psychologists do, but merely gives practical advice personalized to the caller.   

In this case, it is a close resemblance to a reasonable yet empathetic do-it-yourself attitude. 

Gen-Z has not only learned to laugh but also learned to help each other with the little resources they have. They offer each other advice, give suggestions, and most importantly reassure each other that while the world may not be the most ideal place, they are doing their best. 

Camaraderie can do wonders for many. For Gen-Z, they have the ambition to make the world a better place for themselves. Therapy Gecko is living proof of it.

Not quite therapy but definitely not mindless entertainment 

Therapy Gecko is a podcast gaining unbelievable levels of popularity. Lyle Drescher (the guy in the costume) has tapped into something special and continues to mine figurative gold every week.

From Tiktok sensation to featuring famous guests and clothing collaborations, Therapy Gecko continues to rise meteorically, despite insisting he is merely “a guy in a gecko costume who takes calls.”   

He has also uncovered genuine issues others of his generation face and provided a temporary solution. The show is more than a show, it is perfect amalgamation of how Gen-Z copes with the reality they were born into.    

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