A new study released by Mind Share Partners, Qualtrics and SAP is unearthing the depths of the mental health crisis in America. According to the study, 50% of millennials and 75% of Gen X have left a job for mental health reasons.
The recent spike in the mental health epidemic is one Psychologists have been ringing the alarm on in the last few years. In 2017 the American Psychological Association released the finding that people wrestling with suicidal thoughts increased 47% since 2008. As noted on CNBC, Mind Share Partner’s study also reveals that young people deal with a mental illness at roughly three times the rate of the broader population.
When reviewing the data as it specifically relates to Gen Z and Millennials, there appears to be an array of factors contributing to a deficit in mental health at work. Researchers don’t claim there is a single cause. Some include significant rises in depression, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, suicidal thoughts and unaffordable living costs. Another potential factor is burnout. The burnout rate for these generations is higher than ever and still rising as noted on Business Insider.
Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University and author of iGen had this to say regarding technology’s effect on the young psyche: “the rise of the smartphone and social media have at least something to do with it.” She goes on to note that trend of less facetime and more screen time amongst teens has become a major detriment to the young generation.
In relation to the mental health spike, Twege says, “The pattern lines up very precisely that the majority of Americans owned a smartphone from the beginning of 2012 to 2013”
Other schools of thought believe there are more powerful root causes for the mental health crisis in young Americans. Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College, believes anxiety from how we educate kids is a primary concern. Based on his research, our systems since the mid-1950s have steadily removed time for children to play. This playtime is essential in building a child’s central sense of control over their own lives. Gray tells CNBC, “people haven’t learned to take control of their own lives.” He notes control helps to keep anxiety at bay.
Thinkers such as Gray are advocates for reforming education to provide the open play space kids have been losing systematically. His advice for young people is to take a gap year between high school and college to genuinely explore their values, passions and career interests rather than continue down the “conveyor belt.”
The research also pointed to a potential solution, company support. According to the SAP study, 86% of respondents said companies should provide resources to support mental health. Some companies are taking this head-on and creating programs and resources to do exactly that.
The company CISCO currently provides mental health and substance abuse treatment programs to its 75,000 employees and 11,000 managers. CNBC reports roughly 7% are currently accessing those resources.
Researchers hope other businesses, organizations and schools will heed the concerns and seek ways to create a healthy environment for young people.