Friday, June 9, 2023

Today’s youth mental health crisis: about the Pluto in Capricorn generation

In 2008, I wrote about the many challenges I then anticipated for the Pluto in Capricorn generation of children that had just begun to make their “debut” in our midst.  


This Capricorn passage suggested to me that this generation could experience a rough ride ahead, not just because Pluto would be in the Saturnian sign of Capricorn, but because the years 2008-2023 would feature a continuing stream of one potentially transformative outer-planetary dynamic after another—all heavily influenced by Pluto’s Capricorn agenda.  

Indeed, these past 15 years have been, for want of a better word, intense. Pluto’s time in Capricorn is not as isolated as we might want to think, either: it can also be seen as a critical passage within the larger timeframe known as the “Great Acceleration” that’s thought to have its origins in the mid-20th century. A brief description from Wikipedia 

“The Great Acceleration is the dramatic, continuous and roughly simultaneous surge across a large range of measures of human activity, first recorded in the mid-20th century and continuing to this day.[1][2] Within the concept of the proposed epoch of the Anthropocene, these measures are specifically those of humanity's impact on Earth's geology and its ecosystems.” 

Supporting this possibility is the fact that, long before Pluto entered Capricorn in 2008, Uranus and Neptune were playing out the agendas of two successive joint Capricorn cycles—the first beginning in March, 1821 at 3°+ of that sign (having a lot to do with the deep capitalist roots of our economic system) and the second beginning in February, 1993 at 19°+ (a period that further radicalized capitalism by globalizing trade, exploiting less-developed nations and defying nation-based priorities).  

In other words, human civilizations have embraced an intensely Capricornian spirit of enterprise, material striving and rigorous expectations for almost as long as the U.S. has been a sovereign nation. Our national/radix (Sibly) Pluto falls in late Capricorn, in fact: we were born to work hard, promote earthy values and compete ruthlessly. Our national addiction to unbridled capitalism from day one undoubtedly sparked the ethos known as “rugged individualism,” which is certainly pertinent here: for most of our history, it’s been every American man (woman/child) for themselves: if you fail, it’s on you. Sounds good on the surface, but like so many dynamics within American society these days, it can be grossly twisted to serve unfortunate purposes. And to alienate the young.

Of course, this myth of independence and self-sufficiency has, from day one, helped to mask the reality of a rigid Saturnian hierarchy of racial and economic determinants that we don’t like to call a “class system” in America, but which certainly functions as one. The statistics reflect this reality in multiple dimensions of life, including mental health: some Americans are simply bound to get their “foot in the door” of prosperity and success more easily than others. Some Americans—always the same groups, it seems—fail more systematically and suffer from neglect and the lack of medical treatment than others, no matter how hard they try. Exceptions exist, as in all things, but exceptions are far from the norm. 



As for our key focus on today’s children in this post, it seems that our “rugged individual” origin story has resurfaced in extremely troubling ways in regards to them. As you may be aware, transiting Pluto has, since February, 2022, been engaging in an extended return process to our U.S. Sibly Pluto’s position (see post here), a passage that may well be deepening the crisis today’s American youth are experiencing. Children are the most vulnerable among us, of course: when adults experience hard times, they don’t do so in a vacuum—their children internalize the pain and stress in the environments that result.  

Tragically, when parents are stretched beyond their capabilities, the children in their midst often suffer various forms of abuse and neglect. IMHO, being forced to grow up far too early—which seems to be a feature of this Capricorn generation—is one of those forms. Maybe societies that truly care about children could start by making life easier on their parents? 

That said, let’s focus on the matter at hand: what’s going on astrologically with our Pluto in Capricorn generation of children and adolescents? 

Some facts, context and warnings 

Before we go any further, please know that in mundane astrological tradition, Pluto's ingress into a new sign signals the beginning of a new generation of young people. This system doesn't always accord with mainstream designations for these demographic groups, but to my mind, it makes more sense and is less subject to multiple interpretations.  

The initial ingress chart in each instance is thought to represent a general picture of the character, potentials and challenges of each Pluto generation, but it should not be considered a portrait of any one individual within a generation. The ingress influences the collective direction of the generation more than it does individual experiences or "destiny." With that in mind, let's see what Pluto's ingress into Capricorn tells us about our current generation of young people and the challenges that we've been hearing so much about in the news.

Frankly, it was difficult to imagine what the children born into this 15-year Pluto-in-Capricorn period would be like: More mature than their years? Preternaturally responsible, more than fun-loving and childish? More repressed and rigid than we might expect in a child? Potentially cynical, countercultural and dystopian—social misfits that are brilliantly witty? Why else would “Wednesday” be regarded as such a pop-culture heroine today? As society and public discourse harshened and became more thuggishly competitive and divisive around them under the sway of this dour Pluto, how have they coped?  

Indeed, it appears that many, many of them have not coped very well at all: just this March, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy declared that adolescent mental health is a “defining” crisis for our times. Dr. Murthy followed up that statement with a national advisory regarding the dangers of unregulated social media use for young people: this excerpt basically captures the gist: 

What’s driving the growing concerns? 
Social media can expose children to content that presents risks of harm: 
• Social media may perpetuate body dissatisfaction, disordered eating behaviors, social 
comparison, and low self-esteem, especially among adolescent girls.7,8.9.10 
• When asked about the impact of social media on their body image: 46% of adolescents 
aged 13-17 said social media makes them feel worse, 40% said it makes them feel 
neither better nor worse, and only 14% said it makes them feel better.11 
• Roughly two-thirds (64%) of adolescents are “often” or “sometimes” exposed to hate- 
based content.12 
• Some social media platforms show suicide- and self-harm-related content including even 
live depictions of self-harm acts, content which, in certain tragic cases, has been linked 
to childhood deaths.13,14 

Simply judging from its impacts on our young, I think it’s likely that social media is co-ruled by Neptune and Pluto, especially if we consider its ability as a social force to addict and psychologically overwhelm (Neptune) individual participants. As with everything, social media can draw out the best impulses of humanity, but it can also enable the worst impulses, and the platforms are deliberately lax about regulating these because the negativity stimulates activity and dollars (Pluto). Neptune and Pluto co-rule the extraction of fossil fuel resources from the Earth; my fear is they also co-rule the exploitation of vulnerable individuals (children) for the sake of mind-numbing profits. In the end, like everything these two weighty planets rule, it’s all about Power-writ-large, and IMHO, the longer our children can be shielded from that, the better.   

U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy.
Perhaps telling us what we already know, the Surgeon General’s advisory also pointed to the harms and dislocations caused by the COVID pandemic and the prolonged loss of schooling and social engagement it caused for children and adolescents. How many kids became prematurely involved in social media because there were no other sociability choices at the time?  

Does that entirely explain the alarming rise in suicide rates among the young? Probably not. In fact, from just about day one of their generation’s entrance on the American scene, they’ve been subject to one major crisis after another: the 2008-10 recession/housing crisis in which thousands of American families lost jobs, homes and probably much more; the Afghan and Iraq wars that spanned those same early years and literally took many of their parents away from them, at times permanently.  

Trickling through these troubled years and further eroding our children’s sense of security and stability has been the so-called “opioid epidemic,” a slow-rolling, but no-less destructive shredding of families who suffer from addiction. The Child Welfare Information Gateway puts it this way: 

“Among parental substance use disorders, opioid use disorders are increasingly common. Children and youth affected by familial opioid use disorders are more likely to experience child maltreatment and neglect. They are also more likely to witness familial overdoses, thus creating often-undiagnosed trauma reactions and a need for therapeutic intervention. While Federal and State responses have expanded in recent years to address the growing opioid epidemic, local child welfare agencies remain the primary response for children and youth affected by the crisis.” 

And just today (6/7/2023), Biden’s so-called “drug czar” warned that upwards of 165,000 people could be lost to drug addiction per year going forward if something doesn’t intervene. How many of those lost souls will leave traumatized children behind? Perhaps these new, elevated projections have something to do with Saturn’s recent ingress into Neptunian Pisces: keywords “death of parent by addiction.”  

It’s not difficult to imagine how inadequate child welfare responses have been for many traumatized children and broken families, especially once COVID became an issue, impacting family finances and shutting down schools, cutting off access to sociability for students and sometimes, to their only decent meal of the day.  

Click here for CDC info about depression in children.
So yes, in astrological terms, we might say that the lives of Pluto in Capricorn kids have been—with exceptions, of course--overwhelmingly “Saturnized.” This situation has forced too many of these kids to grow up quickly and, in some instances, to be more “grown-up” than their parents. For many this has sadly squashed the joyful dimension of youthful life. Some kids react by acting out in risky, even violent ways; others internalize Capricorn’s Saturnian “vibe,” in extreme cases turning it against themselves, as if they’re not “worthy” of happiness and joy.  

The latest (2011-2021) Youth Risk Behavior assessment from the Center for Disease Control summarizes the situation as follows:  

2011 TO 2021 
As we have seen in our previous reports, several 
areas of adolescent health and well-being are 
continuing to improve overall, including risky 
sexual behavior (i e , ever and current sexual 
activity and having four or more lifetime sexual 
partners) and substance use (i e , ever used 
select illicit drugs, ever misused prescription 
opioids, current alcohol use, and current 
marijuana use) We also saw a decrease in the 
proportion of youth who were bullied at school. 

Unfortunately, almost all other indicators 
of health and well-being in this report 
including protective sexual behaviors 
(i.e., condom use, sexually transmitted 
disease (STD) testing, and HIV testing), 
experiences of violence, mental health, 
and suicidal thoughts and behaviors 
worsened significantly.” 

Clearly, today's children and the mental health crisis dogging their steps as I write this, are the product of our times and the evolutionary moment in which we find ourselves, which brings us back to Pluto and its not yet completed sojourn in Saturnian Capricorn.  


Pluto ingresses Capricorn, January 25, 2008 

Pluto first ingressed Capricorn on January 25, 2008, and as anyone watching this site will likely know, it only recently shook Capricorn’s dust off to ingress Aquarius on March 23, 2023 (see here). As I write this, however, Pluto is about to be under Capricorn’s sway once again, having turned retrograde from its 00°+Aquarius position in early May and about to back into and revisit the final degrees of Capricorn for a powerful and potentially consequential “shadow” period.   

Indeed, Pluto will engage in this retrograde/direct do-si-do twice before it finally streams full speed ahead into Aquarius in November, 2024, a few weeks after the U.S. presidential election, so just one more indicator that this election is bound to be “interesting.” No, folks, we can’t make this stuff up...timing is everything!  

There will be more opportunities to discuss Pluto’s comings and goings in future posts, but the focus of this post is on the generation of children that continue to be born into this significant Capricorn passage. Whether you’re the parent of young children or early adolescents or you’re the grandparent of several, as I am, the difficulties our children are faced with are very real and matters of urgent concern. In that 2008 article referenced at the top of this post, I speculated that something profound lay ahead with this Pluto transit. A quick excerpt is warranted here: 

“Amidst the noisier issue of climate change and its potential to fundamentally transform life on this planet, there is a parallel and no less troubling issue: what is happening to humanity? Largely oblivious (at least collectively), our species has overlooked an important fact: that which happens to the earth and other species happens to us. Indeed, melting ice shelfs, disappearing dolphins and honeybees, beaching whales, pandas sans libido (the list goes on)…all serve as metaphors for the state of humankind. Of course, there are numerous theories about what’s happening, especially as regards today’s children, with visionary researchers such as P.M.H. Atwater helping us make sense of a dizzying array of labels: Indigos, Crystals, Star kids, Sky kids, 5th Root Race,“super-psychic” kids, etc.  

Atwater also traces other, less-discussed developments: sharply increasing numbers of child prodigies, kids who ‘come back’ from near-death experiences with incredible wisdom, children with enlarged prefrontal lobes who look like ‘aliens,’ children who exhibit more DNA codons than seen before, etc. Then, just when “normal” is sounding obsolete, she also lists several disorders an alarming number of today’s kids are living with. She summarizes, saying, ‘Current statistics show that two out of every five children in our country have some type of learning disorder, one out of ten is mentally ill, and more than seven million have ADD; cases of ADHD are up 600 percent since 1990 and autism is so pervasive it is considered an epidemic.’”  

I happened to have been working in an autism-related program in one of our local school districts at the time I wrote this 2008 article, so I was intensely familiar with the issues involved at the time and continued studying the phenomenon that was impacting so many children at the time for some years after that. Some of those for whom I studied charts were born under Pluto in Capricorn; others were born into the last years of Pluto’s Sagittarius transit. Even so, children born under the Sagittarius generation (1995-2008) were also heavily influenced by the 1993 Uranus-Neptune conjunction in Capricorn. At least they had the more expansive, “can-do” backdrop of a Jupiterian Pluto to soften that Uranus-Neptune juggernaut’s edge, but once Pluto entered Capricorn, there was no shielding the new generation from a new wave of harsh and intensifying Saturnian energies.   

Charts of individuals with autism were the focus of that 2008 article, but here the focus is more general and meant to explore how the overall Capricorn generation finds itself in the troubling state of mental health crisis at this time. Let’s begin by examining Pluto’s ingress into Capricorn on January 25, 2008; please note that the chart is cast for Washington, D.C., and is thus relevant to American children.



Chart 1. Pluto ingresses Capricorn, January 25, 2008, 9:37:13 p.m. ST, Washington, D.C. (all charts feature Tropical Equal houses and True Node and are cast on Kepler 8.0, courtesy of Cosmic Patterns Software) 

It’s significant, to my eye, that so many of the planets and other points are weighing down the lower, 4-6 house quadrant of this chart, suggesting that the nation’s families (4th), the institutions that enculturate and entertain those families (5th), and the state of the nation’s health and well-being and its public service sector (6th) are the primary focus on this ingress. Saturn, disposing all the Capricorn and Aquarius points in that intense quadrant, is wielding its weighty influence from the 12th house in Virgo, as if poised to deliver shockingly difficult news.  

In fact, Virgo rules the nation’s military, which in 2008 was a tough place to be, with a renewed surge of soldiers about to be sent to Afghanistan in 2009 and the specter of a no-win, “forever war” becoming more and more real. The military-related difficulties being experienced by involved Americans at that time appear to be particularly intense, with the Moon (Virgo) also occupying that claustrophobic 12th house, square Mars (Rx, Gemini) . More about both this Moon and Saturn in a bit. 

Notice that Pluto (Capricorn) falls in the 4th house of grass-roots life in this U.S.-based chart, the house ruled by the Moon, signifying (in mundane charts) the People, or perhaps more relevantly here, the nation’s families. Traditionally, the People were thought to be like the “children” of a nation, with government leaders functioning as “parents” of sorts, in so far as they are responsible for the care and feeding of the nation. In a would-be democracy, this is a far from perfect analogy, of course: the grass-roots are supposed to be the source of political power and responsibility, not the passive recipient of it from on high, but that’s a story for another day.  

Pluto conjoins Venus and Jupiter (all Capricorn) and this stellium trines 12th house Saturn (Virgo). It’s easy to see that powerful dynamics were shifting in American discourse at the time of this ingress: consider, for instance, the connection implied here between the ruling economic force (Pluto-Venus) and the Patriarchy (Saturn trines and disposes the Capricorn points from Virgo). Jupiter (aka, Zeus) may be most at home in licentious Sagittarius, but being cast as the stern father figure can have its perks, too, especially if you’ve got deep pockets (Jupiter-Pluto) and a “trophy wife” (Venus in Capricorn) on your arm.  

Jupiter/Zeus as stern patriarch.

In fact, this ingress transpired during a very significant moment, in terms of outer-planetary cycles: a new Jupiter-Pluto cycle had just launched that past December, 2007 at 28°+Sagittarius, probably helping to unleash the Wall Street debacle that was about to unfold and decimate so many families; the Saturn-Uranus cycle was about 18 months out from its opposition (signaling the onset of its 2Q phase) in late Virgo-Pisces, and all of this was transpiring during the final couple years of the 7-year long Uranus-Neptune mutual reception (Pisces-Aquarius). Technology was approaching a new, important threshold which would be very meaningful for this generation.  

The first I-phone was released in 2007 and, while Facebook, the grand-daddy of all subsequent social media networks, was initially founded in 2004, it “came of age” as an international service in 2008 and 2009.  So, the Capricorn generation of children was literally born into a sort of communications revolution, made even more explicit here: Mercury conjoins Neptune (both in Aquarius), trines MC-Mars Rx (in communications-friendly Gemini) and inconjoins 12th house Moon (Virgo). 

Mercury also disposes that Moon, which itself opposes Pisces Uranus-Pallas: this and the aspects named above make me wonder how these kids experienced their parents in the early years of this generation. Have these technological advancements enabled more loving, positive parenting on balance, or have they been more of a distraction and/or escape mechanism? The fact that both Saturn and the Moon (both in Virgo) are in the 12th house here suggests the latter may be the case.  

I don't bring this up to pass judgement; far from it! In 2008 a lot of parents were worried about being evicted and losing their jobs, which has a serious way of depleting one’s energies, heightening anxiety and complicating everything, and their children were along for the ride, for better or worse. Phones and networking may have been a lifeline for many at the time, but they could have also facilitated problems for those families caught up in the opioid epidemic, and so on. Here the question is, what did all this mean for the early years of this generation? 

That early period was perhaps more significant than any of us could have foreseen at the time: for reasons too complicated to catalog here, the nation also found itself on the horns of a harsh partisan dilemma that would only deepen and fester between then and now, creating an atmosphere or deep divisiveness for this Capricorn generation of children. It was time to pick your enemies...the Left focused its rage and frustration on the "1%” class and its capitalist excesses; the Right picked up where Reagan had left off and began demonizing the Federal institutions of government and “culture warring” against minorities and the environment. On balance, we certainly can’t claim to have created a safe, secure world for today's children going forward.  

Finally, this generational chart features a staunch Chiron-Vesta conjunction in mid-Aquarius. This is more consequential than it may seem at first glance and may ultimately explain many of the mental health issues being experienced by this Capricorn generation. About this placement in Aquarius, Chiron expert Martin Lass says the following: 

“The core Wound of feeling alien, an outsider, of feeling isolated, cut-off, abandoned, separate, alone, distant and removed from the rest of Humanity. Feeling as though Home is very far away. Feeling different from others, as though there is something wrong with us. Feeling like a stranger in a strange land. Inability to see our place in the world. Feeling separate from the collective consciousness. Feeling exiled from society.” [1] 

Sounds very similar to the stories coming out of today’s mental health crisis, doesn’t it? Vesta's presence here also aptly speaks to the toll Chiron wounds can take on families and households. Chiron also covers possibilities within this generation like gender dysphoria and LGBTQ+ identities, typical ways of being marked as "strangers in a strange land" in today's world. Yet, laws have been passed in roughly half of the nation over the past couple years that discriminate against and force these kids and their parents and doctors to feel even more like "outsiders: IMHO, these laws and the legislators who try to make political points by inflicting pain on these kids are simply wrong and cruelly abusive. This isn't a "cultural" issue--it's a matter of loving our fellow Americans and nurturing the happiness and well-being of all American children.

Of course, with Chiron, every wound offers a path of healing if we are attentive and willing. In this case, Lass suggests that “Connectedness, Contact, belongingness and grounding” are what it will take for these young people to finally feel at “home” in their own Beings and in the world around them. Given the massive challenges of climate change we're leaving them with, not to mention all the dysfunction this nation is currently embroiled in, they will need all the emotional, psychological and material resources and confidence we can help them muster. 

So, with all this said, exactly why are we quibbling over helping them get through college with minimal debt? Just sayin'!



Final thoughts 

I want to thank everyone who sent me requests for subscriptions to this now subscriptions-only site. Fates willing, the technological “dust” will settle on this transition quickly and we can carry on in this new form as smoothly as possible. Obviously, major news has broken about the latest Trump indictment, so there will be lots to talk about there. Not entirely a separate issue, the next post will also check in with the steadily waning, balsamic Saturn-Neptune cycle that is now in progress.

As always, please don’t hesitate to leave comments or questions in the comments section of the blog, or at my email address:  

Thanks again, and all the best! 






[1] Martin Lass, Musings of a Rogue Comet: Chiron, Planet of Healing, Book One, Galactic Publications, Nyack, NY, 2001, p. 344. 



Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and retired educator. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, U.S. history, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. She’s published articles on these topics in several key astrology journals over the years, including most recently, the TMA blog. For information about individual chart readings, contact: 

© Raye Robertson 2023. All rights reserved. 

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