COLLINS Dictionary has listed Generation Snowflake, the term for young adults, as one of the top 10 phrases of 2016. Entrepreneur Claire Fox has criticised this millennial generation, referring to it as a group who “believe it’s their right to be protected from anything they might find unpalatable”. After experiencing brief distress over this – as expected for a millennial such as myself – I have to admit that Ms Fox highlights a major flaw in my generation: hyper-sensitivity.

Our educational institutions have wrapped us in cotton wool to the extent that it is causing young people to be unable to cope with opinions with which they disagree, which could have profound consequences for democracy.

The University of East Anglia outlawed sombreros in a Mexican restaurant and Oxford University notifies its law students in advance if a lecture may contain distressing material. The National Union of Students asked guests to use “jazz hands” instead of clapping as it was “triggering anxiety”. Strathclyde University stopped a pro-life society from affiliating with its union on grounds it would endanger students’ “safe space”.

In defence of my generation, this hyper-sensitivity is no fault of our own. I don’t believe this protection is our “right”, as claimed by Ms Fox. Worse, I simply expect it. We are becoming a generation dismissive about ideals that aren’t our own that only accepts of fun that is guiltless.  Our padded childhoods have left us with a lack of backbone. There are increasing cases of mental health issues with students. A report from the University of York has shown that mental illness among students is at its highest level on record, with 43 of every 134 calls to the emergency services being due to self-harm or suicide attempts. There’s been an 80 per cent increase in the number with mental health complications.  While university has always provided a climate for opinions to collide, it is becoming a hub for a generation who, worryingly, will be psychologically ill-equipped to embrace the transition from academia to work.  I had to take time out from my studies due to mental health as I found myself unable to deal with the cascade of stress that university life presented. Had I stretched my boundaries, as previous generations did, by simply going out and playing in the street or getting a Saturday job, I may have been better equipped to deal with university.  Universities should provide platforms for debate and exposure to controversy so we can weigh up complex arguments and understand those who don’t share our opinions.

Our lack of empathy has been contributing to the growing generation gap. There needs to be a dialogue between the generations as, without one, we’ll be encouraging a greater divide which manifests over issues such as Brexit; where the young, largely, voted Remain, and the older voters, at least in England, choose Leave.

If my generation refuses to listen to the views of those with whom we don’t agree we face a future where different generations, classes and geographic regions are more divided then ever.

Christy O’Neil is a 19-year-old undergraduate at St Andrews University