Millennial Mental Health in the Workplace

By Kristen Fuller, M.D. | Feb. 13, 2019


Millennials were the kids of the 1990s who were born between 1981 and 1996. They are known as confident, entitled and depressed. Parents who were not authoritative, but rather saw themselves as partners, raised this blog-savvy generation. In the workplace, many Millennials strive for flexibility rather than a higher tax bracket. They want more vacation time, casual dress and the flexibility of working from home rather than the office. They are all about working smarter, not harder.
 
Although they may be known as successful and driven, they’re also known for having more mental health issues. Recent research shows that anxiety and depression are widespread among this generation. “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before,” by Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D., is based on her decades worth of psychological data. She contends that “depression, loneliness and panic attacks are all significantly more characteristic of today’s 20-somethings than of preceding generations at the same age.” 
 
This generation is struggling with large student loans, the pressure to be financially successful, and the constant comparison to their peers. All of these issues can be very taxing on millennials’ mental health.
 

Perfectionism 

new study published in the Psychological Bulletinfound that Millennials strive for a higher level of perfectionism compared to older generations. This level of high achievement brings elevated expectations, which has shown to increase the rate of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. Millennials are known to have three types of perfectionism: 
1.    Self-oriented perfectionism: an irrational need for one's self to reach an overly ambitious goal. 
2.    Socially prescribed perfectionism: pressure from others to achieve the loftiest of heights.
3.    Other-oriented perfectionism: having unrealistic expectations of others. 
 
There are many possible reasons why more Millennials strive for perfection compared to older generations. Some of these include: higher educational demands, lower job placement, comparing to others through social media, greater competitiveness with coworkers, having to perform at a higher level and the fear of losing out on a promotion, or worse, being laid off. 
 
For millennials with mental illness, perfectionism can easily become toxic, resulting in severe symptoms, such as suicidal ideation. Unfortunately, individuals are often given the message that neglecting their well-being in favor of accomplishment and productivity is a virtue. Someone who works while being sick, pulls all-nighters and eats lunch at their desk rather than taking a break is often lauded as a hard worker and go-getter. 
 
These factors can intensify the pressure for perfection in the workplace, and can cause an increase in mental health issues among millennials.Instead of competing, millennials should be encouraged to help each other climb the corporate ladder together. Teamwork can not only decrease stress in the workplace, but can also create friendships and support outside of the workplace. 
 

Stigma 

While there is an increase in mental health issues among Millennials, this generation is also more willing to speak out about their struggles with mental illness than previous generations. A 2015 study by American University found that Millennials grew up hearing about anxiety, depression, eating disorders and suicide, and they are more accepting of others with mental illness. 
 
Their access to social media gives them a platform to speak out about stigma and discrimination that occurs in the workplace. Older generations are usually taught to “overcome” their mental illness, not talk about it and just push it to the side. Millennials are more proactive when it comes to standing up for social justice and mental health. 
 
Fighting against mental health stigma in the workplace is important as it can help pave the way for new employees. However, it is just as important to find a workplace that encourages mental health care, self-care and allows millennials to grow into successful employees. As millennials start to become leaders in the workforce, we can all hope that mental health will become more of a priority for all.  
 
 
Kristen Fuller M.D. is a family medicine physician with a passion for mental health. She spends her days writing content for a well-known mental health and eating disorder treatment facility, treating patients in the Emergency Room and managing an outdoor women's blog. To read more of Dr. Fuller's work visit her Psychology Today blog and her outdoor blog, GoldenStateofMinds.

 
Charlotte Underwood is a mental health advocate with the aim to provide a voice to aid against the stigma. 
   


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