January 24, 2019. By Jennifer Wolfsberg:

As a firm, we always stress that heath is wealth, however oftentimes the importance of maintaining mental health can escape the message. In our volunteer work with Advocates, we have come to appreciate the work that they do for those facing challenges with various mental health conditions. Recently our conversations with the organization mirror those in the media with concerns for the overwhelming struggles of Millennials. In this guest blog written by the Advocates team, this issue is discussed at greater depth:


Millennials Are Struggling—What You Need to Know

Have you felt like the world is falling apart around you? Or is your social media feed full of smiling faces, your travels to adventurous locales, your labradoodle, and your Houzz profile-worthy home?

If the latter is true, it is very likely that the former is also true. Studies show that adults ages 18-34—the much-lauded Millennial generation—are experiencing higher levels of anxiety and depression, and college students are now three times more likely to commit suicide than their 1950 predecessors, even though their social media profiles look like they couldn’t be happier.

“I have found that although technology has positive uses, some of the young people I work with find pressure from peers to keep up with social media platforms and current trends,” says Jillian Reed, behavioral health clinical director at Advocates, a leading nonprofit provider of health and social services from central to eastern Massachusetts.

“The impact of having enough ‘likes’ on a post, or seeing friends out together when the individual is not present, can influence a person into developing decreased mood or an increase in anxiety related to thoughts that have spiraled,” cautions Reed.

Here are some of the common challenges and solutions that behavioral health professionals are observing for the segment:

Trouble Adulting: The next time you have an opportunity—a holiday gathering, shopping trip, even a phone call—look and listen for signs that adult children may be faltering beneath the many expectations they face.  Although poised on the surface, the immense pressures of newfound responsibilities of their adult roles may be overwhelming.

The American Psychiatric Association offers a list of signs and symptoms—from mood changes and feeling disconnected, to illogical or problems thinking. The list also provides other resources including as places to get help. Armed with these resources, you may be able to help those who may be struggling around you. This is also a helpful list if you are questioning your own behavioral health.

Backfired Best Intentions: “Millennials don’t feel comfortable struggling. They don’t have the resilience of previous generations,” said Dan Jones, past president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors in an interview with Vox magazine. Jones attributed this to a lack of problem-solving skills—the result of having well-meaning parents who habitually removed obstacles for their children.  Nicole Arzt, a licensed marriage and family therapist, illustrates the mindset of her generation, on digital health blog The Mighty.  “We have been branded as ‘special snowflakes,’ brought up on participation trophies, minivans, and a cool hundred or so social media platforms. We are called entitled, quirky, and stubborn. We are accused of glamorizing mental illness and its surrounding symptoms and are also shamed for being too triggered, too sensitive, and too politically correct.”  Active Minds, a non-profit that supports mental health awareness and education for college students observes this group in a positive light, as they bring awareness to mental health concerns:

 “…today’s young people are actually much more likely to talk about mental health than their parents or grandparents. This generation is closer than ever to breaking the stigma around mental illness in a time when only 44 percent of adults—and less than 20 percent of children and adolescents—with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need.”

At Work: The human resources company Morneau Sheppell conducted an internal study of employees seeking Employee Assistance Program services between January 2013 and June 2014. Of those individuals, 20% were Millennials, the most of any generation, who reported that they experienced depression. At a time in which as many as five generations can be toiling in the same workplace, society has given us all the same thing to fear: uncertainty. A lot of uncertainty. National tragedies and hate crimes. Corporate downsizing and globalization. Record-low approval ratings for Congressand record-high student loan debt.  In short, a combination of chaos for those who fear uncertainty and crave compassion.

There is cause to be hopeful, however. While Millennials may have a reputation for needing constant feedback in the workplace, this can be assuaged by a willing coach or mentor.

Some business experts offer the following advice for a generationally collaborative environment:

Encouragement doesn’t always need to be a substantial time investment. Even a few minutes can help make employees feel valued and strengthen company ties.

“=[Millennials] prefer…to follow leaders who are honest, have integrity, and who treat them with respect.

[Millennials] want flexibility in their jobs and opportunities to learn and meaningfully contribute. Offer projects, then, with a learning component. It will challenge them and make them work harder.

IRL (in real life): Research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that happiness follows a U-shaped curve over time, with happiness at a high in the 20s, decreasing in the 30s and 40s, and then taking an upward turn in the 60s.

If you find yourself at the bottom of the curve, however, there is no need to wait decades for relief. In addition to traditional in-person counseling, innovative mental health support is emerging by phone and online via employee assistance programs and counseling apps.

Meditation and wellness apps are also flooding the marketplace. Happify, a company taking a scientific, “21st-century approach to building a well-lived life,” offers colorful graphics, interactive games and activities, and analytics to track your progress “anytime, anywhere” on multiple devices.

“There are now numerous apps to help assist people to develop coping skills for various mental health symptoms,” says Reed. “I often find that I reference the Virtual Hope Box in sessions due to the vast amount of individuals with smart phones. I find that some of my adolescent clients are educating me on additional apps that are available.”

If you, or anyone you care about, are struggling with depression, loneliness, or other mental health challenges, help can be found at one of the following resources:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255, website includes options in Spanish and for the Deaf)

Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741-741

Advocates Psychiatric Emergency Services (800-640-5432)

The Living Room – 284 Union Avenue, Framingham, MA 01702, 508-661-3333 – The Living Room is a welcoming space where people experiencing emotional distress can walk in and connect with a peer specialist on the spot.

This article was produced by Advocates, a health and human service community based organization with a broad range of services for people facing life challenges such as addiction, aging, autism, brain injury, intellectual disabilities, and mental health conditions.