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Understanding and Supporting Mental Health in a Multi-Generational Workplace

Joy Stanek, TCC

Today, we are extending our discussion on the challenges and opportunities within a multi-generational workforce to focus on mental health. This topic is incredibly timely and important, given the diverse ways different age cohorts experience mental health issues.

Generational Perspectives

on Mental Health

Different generations tend to experience and perceive mental health issues in distinct ways. Research shows that Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) and Gen Xers (born 1965-1980) often hold a "suck it up and deal with it" attitude towards mental health, leading to higher levels of stigmatization compared to Millennials and Gen Zers. This stigma can negatively impact workplace culture, making it crucial for businesses and non-profits to address these stereotypes so that they can foster a more inclusive environment.​ (McKinsey & Company)​​ (McKinsey & Company)​.

Mental Health Trends Across Generations

Starting with Millennials (born after 1976), we see a significant increase in anxiety levels compared to previous generations. This cohort faced unique challenges such as school shootings, the 9/11 attacks, and the 2008 economic recession during their formative years, contributing to their heightened anxiety​ (McKinsey & Company)​.

Gen Z (born after 1996), on the other hand, reports even higher rates of mental health issues. Recent studies indicate that nearly 20% of Gen Z young adults have experienced a major depressive episode in the past year, and 61% report feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge​ (Annie E. Casey Foundation)​​ (Psychology Masters Programs)​. This is partly due to anxieties about climate change, gun violence, economic instability, and the impacts of COVID-19. As digital natives, Gen Z has grown up with social media, which, while offering some positive outcomes, also contributes to their mental health challenges.

The Role of Social Media in Mental Health

Social media plays a significant role in how Gen Z perceives and experiences mental health issues. While it can help normalize mental health conversations and reduce stigma, it also presents risks. Misinformation spreads quickly online, and many young people turn to social media for self-diagnosis, which can be harmful. Without professional guidance, self-diagnosis can lead to improper treatment and damaging comparisons​ (McKinsey & Company)​​ (McKinsey & Company)​.

For instance, seeing an influencer claim they have conquered depression can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness in those who are still experiencing, leading to further mental health issues​ (McKinsey & Company)​.

Workplace Mental Health Statistics

Understanding the broader context of mental health in the workplace is also essential. Here are some critical statistics:

  • Workplace Stress: 81% of workers report that workplace stress affects their mental health, and 55% feel that work is getting more intense and demanding​ (MHFA Portal)​​ (Mental Health America)​.

  • Mental Health and Productivity: Poor mental health accounts for more than half of all work-related illnesses, with stress, depression, or anxiety being significant contributors​ (MHFA Portal)​.

  • Managerial Challenges: 64% of managers have considered quitting for a job that would better support their wellbeing, and a third of managers feel out of their depth supporting their team with mental health concerns​ (MHFA Portal)​​ (Spring Health)​.

Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace

Given the diverse attitudes towards mental health across generations, it is essential to create a supportive and inclusive workplace culture. Here are some action steps that can help:

  1. Provide Trainings: Conduct trainings to help employees recognize and diminish both implicit and explicit ableist biases within a multi-generational workforce.

  2. Promote Mental Health Awareness: Encourage open conversations about mental health and provide resources for employees to learn more about these issues.

  3. Develop Action Steps to De-stigmatize Mental Health: This could include integrating information shared in this blog into training sessions and promoting strategies for effective communication and social support among employees.

  4. Provide Resources and Training: Ensure employees have access to mental health resources and training on how to use them effectively. This includes providing training for management to better recognize and respond to mental health issues.

  5. Address Workplace Stress: With 80% of Americans considering their jobs to be stressful, it is crucial to balance workloads and offer flexible schedules. A workplace culture that rejects bullying and celebrates victories can also help reduce stress​ (Mental Health America)​​ (Spring Health)​.


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