OPINION: Squishmallows for hire

Gen Z has enlisted marshmallow-soft plushies to cope with their mental health

Grayson Gustin

From Carlos, the enthusiastic crustacean made salsa instructor, to Avery, a Mallard who’s obsessed with rugby, Squishmallows emerged in 2017, as a Kellytoy product line of “loveable buddies,” but they have since become Generation Z’s ultimate obsession. And our beds have become filled with their huggable, plush material.

But why? Well, it’s no secret that Gen Z struggles heavily with mental health, as we’ve been called the most depressed generation. While we may be more cognizant of mental health issues and our generation is more likely to seek help, with little to no access to mental health resources, for some, they have nowhere to turn.

Gen Z has been rattled by disaster as often as the George Lopez theme song comes on at three in the morning. But that hasn’t stop this ever-growing generation from finding ways to cope by creating new trends.

What’s wrong with me hugging Connor the cow instead of sitting on a couch, telling someone dressed in business casual about my FOMO problem? Nothing… but we should probably stop smothering Connor and go talk to that person in business casual.

The Squishmallows company displays articles on their website discussing the contributions their picturesque plushies have made. Breeanna M. from The Mighty said, “They’re big, soft and perfect for napping on or cuddling. Walgreens sells the giant ones for about $20. It’s just a nice soft companion when the world feels kind of terrible. When I feel too cruddy, I give him a squish or take a nap with him as a pillow. It makes a depressive episode just a little less awful.”

This newfound infatuation our generation has with Squishmallows not only helps us cope with our mental health issues, but we’ve also found fun in the hunt for certain characters. Each Squishmallow comes with a name, a personality, and a backstory on its tag and searching for that perfect character that we relate to or that best matches our aesthetic has fueled our passion for these plushies.

Walgreens and Target are the main carriers of the toys, leading the vicious witch hunt and keeping Squishmallow connoisseurs on their toes about what characters will be in stores next.

I find the juxtaposition of these cuddly creatures so interesting, as we rarely see something healing millions across the globe and still maintaining an Instagram-worthy aesthetic.

And I won’t pretend I don’t have five of them surrounding me as I type this, each having preferred pronouns, a backstory, and partners, but I will pretend that this is simply a hobby and justify spending $25 on Wendy the frog. Moderation is not in the conversation when discussing the Chanel of the plushie world.

In my humble opinion, Squishmallows can be a good shoulder to cry on but not a great resource when it comes to your sinking GPA. You may want to talk to your advisor about that.

We are teetering the line between using these soft stuffies as a healthy coping mechanism and an unhealthy obsession that hinders us from asking for help.

Sure, you can take Talford the dinosaur or Belana the artistic cow and have that breakdown. But go and talk it out with something that can actually give you a reaction, like a human being.