Let’s Talk About Mental Health and Millennials
Millennials have been called the "burnout generation," and based on our recent Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report®, burnout is a real thing that's impacting millennials in very real ways—especially when it comes to their mental health and emotional well-being.
For example, according to the report, major depression had the largest growth in prevalence among the top 10 health conditions affecting millennials. What's more, millennial women are 20 percent less healthy than men, with major depression being one of the main drivers.
Millennials have a different view on mental health
We're also seeing that there's a generation gap in the perception of mental health. When asked in a recent national survey conducted by Blue Cross Blue Shield, the majority (68 percent) of baby boomers and Gen Xers think their mental health is good or excellent, but only 49 percent of millennials say the same. Taking that a step further, we found nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of millennials think mental counseling needs to change.
Whether it's financial debt, consumption of social media, always connected work environments or heavier workloads with fewer resources, there are many different factors that may cause higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression in millennials compared to past generations. One thing is clear; we need to find solutions that help address these behavioral health issues to help your company support the whole health of your employees.
During our ongoing millennial health listening sessions in communities across America, we explored the topic of mental health and received some extremely helpful feedback from our participants (millennials, healthcare professionals, employers and their employees, and community leaders). Here are five takeaways from our sessions:
- 1) Remove the stigma
Stigma still exists around behavioral health conditions. Employees hesitate to ask employers for time off to seek care and instead look for care after hours, which can delay care. It's important for an employer to demonstrate that there is no stigma or repercussions from taking advantage of Employee Assistance Program benefits.
- 2) Embrace integrated "whole person" care
Benefit designs should evolve to meet the needs of millennials, including expanded behavioral health access and incentivizing doctors to provide "whole person" care, including mental and physical care. Consider making mental health screening more standard, similar to preventive care.
- 3) Take a more holistic approach
There needs to be a holistic approach, including appropriate sharing of data, to better care for patients both mentally and physically. The current health system lacks interoperability, and this is a challenge that needs to be addressed as we improve the healthcare ecosystem.
- 4) Control cost and improve access
Time and cost are barriers to receiving care for behavioral health conditions. Counseling can result in a weekly copay in addition to the cost of medication, which in turn, can prevent millennials from reaching out for treatment. Also, some rural communities lack access to mental health professionals and face even greater stigma around seeking care for these conditions. How can we provide better access for these communities?
- 5) Establish trust and build relationships
Trust is an important issue among millennials, especially when there is a concern or diagnosis of a behavioral health condition. Many millennials feel that a doctor will not understand or try to hear them. There are opportunities through payer-provider solutions to find ways to establish trust and build lasting relationships through continued follow-up and engagement.
We have a lot to think about when it comes to improving mental health services and care for millennials, as well as your entire workforce. Sharing ideas is one way we can get closer to a solution.
In one session, a number of HR leaders in Iowa shared that they’re working on changing the culture of their company so employees take time to unplug from work to help reduce the stigma associated with utilizing non-health benefits, such as vacation days, work from home and/or parental leave. One company is encouraging employees to sign off during their vacations and not look at emails, while another company launched a "use your vacation days" campaign. Both of these efforts are meant to encourage employees to take time to unplug—reducing stress and burnout.
Working together to improve the health of millennials
As we strive to find smarter, better healthcare solutions for your employees and your organization, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and our partners will keep exploring important trends and sharing insights. In our next blog, Taking a Digital Approach to Millennial Health, we take a closer look at digital engagement and its role in millennial health. And be sure to watch key takeaways from our national forum, Millennial Health: A Call to Action, held on November 6, 2019.