Did you know that 20% of millennials report suffering from depression? That’s higher than both Boomers and Gen X. For 18% of those reporting, their depression resulted in problems with absenteeism. Perhaps more notable was that 70% dealt with the problem with presenteeism. This is working in spite of the fact that mental health issues are severely impairing your ability to function.
But according David Michigan, a mental health coach with more than four million followers combined on Instagram and Facebook, it’s not just depression that’s having an impact on millennial leaders. They also have significant levels of stress and anxiety. These are caused by a combination of organic factors as well as stressors that come from the current economic and geopolitical crises that impact the life of millennials. Clearly there is a mental health crisis impacting millennials. Fortunately, this is a problem that does have solutions. Here are five ways Michigan suggests to help millennial leaders overcome mental health problems.
1. Include mindfulness in employee wellness efforts
Studies show that people who participate in mindfulness meditation, even over a short term, produce less cortisol and have improved sleep. In addition to this, mindfulness can produce physical changes in the brain that correlate with reduced anxiety, better concentration, and overall psychological well being.
“Employee wellness programs that may include EAP programs and other health initiatives often encourage employees to take proactive action regarding their physical health,” Michigan said. “Many encourage workers to maintain healthy diets, to exercise, to keep up with medical appointments, and to proactively deal with health problems. In order to nurture millennial talent, and to get the best performance out of members of this generation, it only makes sense to also encourage them to engage in mindfulness as well.”
2. Encourage those struggling to make a daily plan
Those struggling with mental health often benefit by developing and implementing healthy, coping strategies. According to Michigan, mental health professionals believe that these strategies work best when implemented deliberately through the use of a daily plan.
By using a daily plan, millennials can customize their coping strategies around the demands of their day as well as their current state of mind. For example, someone who is struggling a bit, might make the following plan to get through a work day:
- Work from home until noon to avoid sensory stressors of a busy work environment
- Plan short walk after stressful 2:00 staff meeting to decompress
- Text EAP counselor if anxiety levels get too high
- Get a seat in the quiet car on the train on the way home
By implementing these strategies millennials can feel more in control. Even better, they can ensure that they perform at the maximum level of productivity possible for them in a given day.
3. Emphasize the importance of social connections
“Sadly, mental health issues are very isolating. For millennials, this is often compounded by the false, social narrative that has been created about them,” Michigan said. “Not only do they suffer because of mental health problems, they also fear being labeled ‘special snowflakes’ or seen as being spoiled and entitled.”
This is true - and unfortunate, as one of the side effects of this is that those suffering from mental health problems often don’t have the support systems or social connections they need. According to the APA, having a social support system is very important in helping people to cope with stress and other issues. Millennials should be encouraged to seek out supportive relationships both in and out of the workplace. They can accomplish this by:
- Participating in employer designed peer to peer support programs
- Finding a mentor who can advise them on career related issues including dealing with work related stress and anxiety
- Identifying friends who they can approach when they are struggling
- Joining support groups
- Using the internet and other technology to stay connected
4. Design absentee policies that support seeking treatment
All too often, workplace policies about absenteeism are very unhelpful to those with chronic health conditions. For example, when a workplace only allows five sick days per year, another handful of personal days, and two weeks vacation that can be a real struggle for someone whose illness requires weekly or monthly appointments, even occasional hospitalizations. Paid time off quickly dries up, and workers are left with the choice of going without pay in order to seek treatment. Many simply suffer, and that leads to the issue of presenteeism mentioned above.
Michigan recommends that policies around attendance and absenteeism shouldn’t be designed in such outdated ways. “Instead of focusing on the need for employees to show up and be physically present, the focus should be on employee well-being,” he argued.
This will lead to healthier and more productive employees. Supportive absentee policies might include:
- Increasing the number of paid sick days per year.
- Offering flex time.
- Giving employees the option to take time off in increments rather than full days.
- Offering telecommuting as an option.
Whether they are in current positions of leadership or emerging, providing millennials with comprehensive mental health support is key. Failing to do so can result in low productivity, absenteeism and other issues. Worse, it can cheat both millennials and their workplaces out of the potential that so many of the members of this generation possess. To help millennial leaders overcome mental health problems they should be encouraged to seek treatment, engage in self care, and reach out to others for support.