Millennials and Mental Health
By Matthew Bahl, JD
Director, Health & Productivity Analytics
Prudential Group Insurance
By Kristin Tugman, PhD
Vice President, Health & Productivity Analytics
Prudential Group Insurance
Millennials comprise more than one-third of the U.S. labor force and are the largest generation currently in the workplace.1 Much attention has been paid to the recruitment and retention of Millennials, but employers are increasingly exploring strategies to help this key population deal with a major challenge: mental health.
Millennials grew up with an awareness of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, and are generally more accepting of those with mental illness. Millennials are also more likely to talk about mental health issues openly, and the stigma around mental health is beginning to lessen with the impact of this generation.2 The American Psychiatric Association, based on poll results, has dubbed Millennials the most “anxious generation.”3
Educating employees, managers, and executives on mental health issues (especially those impacting Millennials) plays a crucial role in workplace mental health strategy. To this end, there are a number of steps — often costing nothing — that employers can implement to better promote and support the mental health of their workforce, particularly Millennials. Specifically:
- Stay in Touch: Keep an open connection with employees while they are out of work to help mitigate additional stress for the employee. Returning to work and finding they are behind the learning curve on big organizational changes can be very stressful. This is particularly important for Millennials who, as a generation, are used to having unlimited access to an endless stream of information via texts and social media. Losing that connection to the workplace can be a major source of stress.
- Support Return to Work: Communicate openly regarding the return-to-work process. Ensuring that employees know they have a supportive pathway back to the workplace can not only help facilitate return-to-work efforts but can also help promote stay-at-work initiatives.
- Strategically Target Key Triggers: There is no single solution for addressing mental health in the workplace. However, targeted programming for key triggers may help move the needle in a positive direction. For example, in a recent study, 36% of Millennials showed symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder due to financial stress.4 Having targeted programs like a financial wellness program can help augment an organization’s larger mental health strategy and provide resources to alleviate a key mental health trigger for Millennials.
- Actively Eliminate Stigma: Millennials are widely credited as the generation shattering workplace stigmas associated with mental health. Thus, a work culture that passively tolerates stigmas can amplify feelings of conflict for Millennials, which can be a hindrance to their full participation and successful re-engagement after an absence. Employers should have a clear understanding of restrictions and limitations to ensure a healthy and incremental return to work, and not assume anything about what an employee can or cannot do.
As the largest generation in the workforce, Millennials are an important demographic. Having a proactive mental health program that targets multiple key stressors and helps facilitate a stigma-free return to work are some of the best practices employers can deploy.
- Pew Research Center. Millennials Are the Largest Generation in the U.S. Labor Force. April 10, 2018. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/04/11/millennials-largest-generation-us-labor-force/ft_
- Lorusso M, S Barnes. Matters of the Mind Survey, American University. A Look at Millennials and Mental Health. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.themillennialminds.com/survey/
- American Psychiatric Association. 2018. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/newsroom/apa-public-opinion-poll-annual-meeting-2018
- K Ashford. Forbes. 1 in 4 Americans PTSD-Like Symptoms from Financial Stress. April 2016. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateashford/2016/04/22/financial-stress/#17c501ab2753