4 Things to Know About Mental Health and Millennials 

Posted by Nicole Christopoul from Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide — North America on August 9, 2017

Disclaimer: I am a college student, an Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide intern, and a Millennial.

 

In late March of this year, Netflix released another show that immediately consumed the Internet. I, like all of my friends, quickly gave into temptation and began the process of binge-watching the highly controversial episodes that make up the first season of 13 Reasons Why. The show follows a series of audible suicide notes left by a high school student, and very personally and explicitly delves into the stigmas that exist regarding mental health. Although I had no idea what 13 Reasons Why was about when I started watching, as I worked my way through each episode, I was taken aback by what I would read on social channels about how many viewers were outraged by the show or stunned that suicide and mental health are pressing topics today in society, let alone on the high school level. I found myself drawn in by the debates and discussions that ensued after the show was aired. My stance? I believe there is a clear benefit to shows like 13 Reasons Why, and that great value lies in opening up the conversation about mental health. Let us start with these 4 thoughts:

1. In 2017, the average age of Millennials are 20-36, which means the majority of this generation is working.

As a Millennial who is only a few years out of high school, and currently embroiled in the collegiate scene but interning in the corporate world, I believe our generation is more inclined to discuss mental health than prior generations, and vital we pay attention to the conversation. 

2. Employers need to be mindful of the challenges that mental health issues pose for their employees and how it can affect their job performance.

According to a recent study, 70% of Millennials report suffering from presenteeism. The concept of presenteeism refers to a person being physically present at their place of employment, yet unable to complete tasks to the best of his or her ability. Any employer who ignores the mental health of a working individual is particularly dangerous, as doing so may only cause that person’s condition to worsen, and further weaken job performance. A recent Twitter conversation went viral after a CEO applauded his employee for taking a few mental health days to improve her work ability. Employers need to offer open, nonjudgmental communication channels, so employees can feel comfortable enough to discuss their mental health concerns at work. Doing so allows employers to adapt to these concerns and improve the productivity of the company as a whole. Mental health in the workplace needs to be an honest conversation, not a secret. 

3. Millennials are the most technologically connected generation, and this makes an impact on their mental health.

As social media becomes increasingly embedded in our everyday lives, people become more and more reliant upon it as a form of interpersonal communication. Through the lens of social media, people see themselves in comparison to those around them. An individual’s perception of their friends’ lives is greatly based on a “newsfeed”—something that is populated only by the exciting and positive accomplishments that their friends want others to see. This creates a new standard of perfection that can make those suffering from depression or other mental health illnesses feel less secure about their own lives. A recent study revealed that each notification that appears on a phone releases a pleasure molecule of dopamine that, when released too often, leads to dependence and depression. Now, this is not to say that social media should be avoided completely. It is, however, to say that people should be reminded of the reality that “the newsfeed,” and the true purpose of social media, is to stay connected and celebrate each other’s successes instead of competing with them. 

4. As the struggles and concerns surrounding mental health illnesses become more widely discussed, we need to embrace and foster this conversation in our personal relationships and in the workforce.

Without discussion and open acceptance, people who suffer from depression or other mental health illnesses will likely not seek the help they deserve. Parents, employers, and Millennials alike need to recognize that the only way to find outlets for assistance is through healthy dialogue. It is time for my generation to lead the charge and get society to help create an open, safe, and welcoming environment to encourage the dialogue, remove the negative stigma surrounding mental illness, and ultimately, keep the conversation going.