New Generation, New Health Priorities

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They say every time has its illness. And if we scan through the history books we can truly see that. We all know about the black plague in the medieval period, malaria, smallpox, cholera, and the most recent HIV/AIDS outbreak. The time has come to identify and face the illness of the Millennials, and for this health threat there is no vaccine that can help out, at least not yet.

This generation is dealing with an illness that is repeating the patterns we have seen in history – it is a relatively newly identified illness, it is striking fast, no one is safe, and it can be fatal. Having in mind that the Millennial generation is the first generation that is breaking all the rules, that is exploring and learning more than any generation before, fighting stereotypes and refusing standards each day, one can only assume that their No1 health issue is going to be as complex, dynamic, and unpredictable as the generation itself.

Mental health 

This term is now wide-spread in the world of youth, we have learned what it means, we were educated in school about it, and we see it in the headlines almost on a daily basis. But don’t be fooled by this, a few decades ago mental health was not a thing that was considered when talking about employees’ well-being or even your children’s well-being. People were living in a world with a much smaller stress level than today; and don’t get me wrong, mental health issues have been around as long as human-kind, they were just not identified as such and neither were they treated properly.

Today we have a different situation. We have treatments, we have experts, we have support groups, and we have mentors. Now this is generally a good thing – we have people with a health issue, and we have people and institutions they can go to in order to receive help. However, one must ask if the number of people, especially youth, affected by mental health issues had to rise to such a terrifying level in order for society to respond in this manner? And the numbers are intimidating. 

A recent Ipsos poll conducted in Canada revealed that Millennials are deeply concerned about their mental health, and 56 percent of the Millennials who were questioned during this research fell in the high-risk category. At the same time, only 15 percent of Baby Boomers were placed in the same category while just 38 percent of Generation X participants in the survey had a high-risk profile. 

This pattern is seen in every part of the Globe. Let’s take Australia, where a new survey done by Virgin Mobile disclosed that 73 percent of all participants stated that they believe we are living in the most stressful era in human history. Fully 83 percent of Aussies state that there is always something to do, so their minds never really slow down, while 60 percent say that their job is more important than their mental health. Three quarters of the participants state that technology has increased stress levels while 74 percent of Millennials confess that they reach for their phones as soon as they have a spare moment.

A similar situation was recorded in the UK, where recently published statistics from the Labor Force Survey showed that stress accounted for 45 percent of sick days in the UK during 2015. If we see such large numbers of young people facing mental health issues in these three countries, the situation in other, less developed, countries is bound to be the same or even worse. So what can we do about it?

Solutions 

When we say mental health issues, we are talking about a large number of identified mental health conditions, each of which needs to be treated in a different manner, and each of which is severe and should not be neglected or taken lightly. The number one mental health threat in the world today, however, is anxiety. The symptoms of this illness are often misread and/or minimized. Ken Rabow, a Mentor for Troubled Teens, Young Adults, and their Families, has stated that there are ways to rise above anxiety permanently. His four anxiety vanquishers are:

Breathing – Take time each day to take deep, diaphragmatic breaths, a minimum of three good, deep ones and up to five minutes of it each day (if you can stand it);

Positive self-speak The voice that you hear in your head is a sort of loop that can be helpful or can actually ramp up your anxiety. Train your inner voice to be helpful; 

Dorothy Syndrome – a lot of young people cross a specific barrier as they leave home, and this is where anxiety kicks in. It could be 10 blocks, or it could be at a certain landmark or major intersection. Oddly enough, they often aren’t aware of this geographical boundary. Check to see if you have one. If you do . . . drive to somewhere in the comfort zone of your boundary and slowly, day-by-day push up to, then past, that boundary. Over time, you can soften and then eliminate it;

Visualization Many people find that it is almost impossible to stop their minds from thinking every moment of the day. This can lead to trouble sleeping but is often also the cause of anxiety issues in young adults. Ken Rabow recommends finding a five minute visualization exercise that speaks to you. Try it every day. Slowly build up the time; five minutes, ten . . . fifteen.

While these methods are recommended by an expert and can be done in the privacy of our homes and/or heads, it is important to give our appreciation to the institutions and employers who are seeing this issue and trying to find a solution in order to help their employees. One of those employers is Starbucks Canada – where they have announced an increase in their coverage for mental health services from $400 to $5,000 a year for all of their employees, who are mainly Millennials; Unilever, EY, Mars, Channel 4 and M&S companies from the UK are now providing services and a mental-health-first aide system in order to help their employees; Virgin Mobile has teamed up with Smiling Mind in Australia and provided a mediation app in order to provide mental health treatment for the Millennials generation, who are known for their addiction to technology.

The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. The Governments of these countries have detected the generational illness of the Millennials, and it is up to them to provide a solution for their young people, to give them the tools to fight this battle and be victorious. I, for one, belive the Millennial Generation will succeed in that.

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