Millennials and Mental Health

 

Millennials are often referred to as the “anxious generation.”  They were the first to grow up with the constant overflow of the Internet and social media, and while the Internet can make life better, it can also make life complicated, as Millennials often compare their personal and professional achievements to everyone else’s. This can result in low self-esteem and insecurity.

According to a 2015 report by The Chronicle of Higher Education, more students than ever are coming to college on medication or in treatment for mental health problems.  More than 25 percent of college students have a diagnosable mental illness and have been treated in the past year, according to National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI.  At University of Missouri, 61 percent of 1,010 college students who responded to an American College Health Association assessment in fall 2014 reported feeling overwhelming anxiety within the last year, and 35.5 percent said they “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.”

One of the possible factors of Millennials’ mental health problems is that they are the first generation to go through all the trials of reaching adulthood through the ever-present lens of social media. According to a 2013 study, social media usage 18 to 29 year olds increased 1,000 percent in the past eight years. Up to 98 percent of college students use social media, according to a consumer insight service.  While it can be fun posting parts of our lives online and viewing what other people are doing, the problem is people typically compare their whole life to other people’s “highlight reels.”  It’s important to remember that what we’re seeing on social media is merely the best parts of people’s lives, and not the whole story.

The pressure Millennials face to constantly be available is becoming extreme.  The lines between work and home are increasingly blurred; it’s hard to put off replying to a work email when your boss and colleagues know that you’re reachable on your phone.  Add the fact that they can see when you’re online on social media to the mix, and it’s hard to have any downtime when you’re not at work.  And even if you’re not involved with work, friends and family expect to be able to reach you at all hours of the day.  Some cope by turning their phones off completely; others are afraid to miss out on anything and never turn their phones off.

The good news is that Millennials as a generation have benefited from the gradual slack for the stigma of mental health.  Word is spreading through social media that mental health is an important part of overall well-being, and celebrities are openly sharing their struggles. The younger generation is learning about mental illness at an earlier age, thanks to programs like NAMI Ending the Silence.  A 2015 study by American University said that Millennials grew up hearing about anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and suicide, and they are more accepting of others with mental illness. Millennials are more likely to talk about mental health with each other than their parents or grandparents. As more people speak out, the stigma surrounding mental illness is beginning to lessen.

Despite being harder on themselves, millennials were found to be more accepting of others with mental illness than previous generations, according to a survey conducted by American University this year. Of those surveyed, 85 percent said they would have no problem making friends or working with someone experiencing a mental illness. Millennials are more accepting and supportive of others and more open to those who lead different lifestyles, the study says. They cheer one another on across various platforms, support LGBT rights, believe racial diversity increases the quality of a campus or workplace and have a more diverse group of friends than previous generations.

In early 2015, a group of young professionals from Phoenix, Arizona decided to create a non-profit called Millennials for Mental Health Awareness, focused on raising mental health awareness for the Millennial generation.  Millennials for Mental Health partners with Active Minds, a national nonprofit that empowers students to speak openly about mental health in order to educate others and encourage help-seeking. Together, they are raising awareness for mental health, removing the stigma surrounding mental illness, and providing resources for those who need it most.  Visit http://www.millennialsmentalhealth.org/ or https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/NAMI-Programs/NAMI-Ending-the-Silence to find out more about these programs.  Call 1-800-273-TALK to get immediate assistance from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Your problem is never too small or insignificant.