Today's younger generations are depressed

Burnout and depression: why Millennials and Gen Z are more often affected

They are often smiled at and branded, but the younger generations do not have it easy in everyday work. And that's not because they're spoiled or lazy. A highly competitive job market, training debts and generally lower incomes mean that Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to suffer from mental health problems. The number of sick days due to depression and burnout is increasing. A trend that employers have to recognize - and counteract.

More and more young people suffer from mental illness

While baby boomers like to portray the younger generations as effeminate and lazy, they see themselves very differently. This becomes particularly clear when you look at the meme culture of Gen Z and Millennials. The jokes often revolve around financial problems, bursting dreams, depression and suicide.

And as macabre and funny as these types of memes seem, they are unfortunately all based on a sad and worrying reality. A study carried out jointly by Mind Share Partners, SAP and Qualtrics on 1,500 full-time employees shows that a whopping 75 percent of Gen Zers and 50 percent of Millennials have already quit a job due to mental health problems. Another study from San Diego State University also found that the number of workers suffering from mental stress increased 71 percent since 2008. In addition, suicidal thoughts among young people increased by 47 percent over the same period. But where does this development come from? We recently showed you in a report that millennials have a hard time in the world of work. But besides constant fears about the future, idiotic tweets from Donald Trump, climate concerns and problems with finding a job, there are other reasons for the terrifying numbers.

Mental problems start at school

Depression affects not only adults, but also schoolchildren. One trigger for this is constant pressure to perform on the part of parents and school. In addition, bullying is a real problem at all schools, which has become even worse due to digitization and the associated cyber bullying. And teachers and parents who dismiss the whole thing with "Well, that's just the way children are, they just tease each other", don't make the situation any better. In addition, the young workers are often caught between two stools. On the one hand, they are criticized for taking a different path than the previous generations. True to the motto “Everything was better in the past”. On the other hand, they are taught from an early age that individuality is something wonderful, that they should find their own way in life and that with a good education they can achieve anything.

In reality, however, it looks different. The fact that individuality and being different are often punished was no secret even in school days and has changed little in adult life. Yes, fortunately there is now a lot of openness in society. But this has not yet arrived everywhere. In addition, the fresh, new workers are thrown onto a market in which dozens of other applicants have the same qualifications - but the demand is limited. And so many do not find a suitable entry-level job after graduation and bridge the time with secondary employment - in order to at least somehow be able to pay student debts and rising rents.

Respect differences between generations

At this point it should be noted that Millennials and Gen Zers do not, of course, have a monopoly on mental illness. These also occur in the older generations. However, they are discussed less often there. This is because older workers have often been brought up to believe that mental illness is a character weakness. And if you should go to therapy, it would be a real scandal. This is different with the younger generations: They talk openly about their therapies or illnesses, exchange ideas and also campaign for the prevention of depression and burnout.

What I'm getting at at this point is that the different generations should show understanding and respect for one another. The elderly are not all conservative, unworldly people who are reluctant to innovate. Nor are the younger ones deluded, effeminate, or lazy. And just because there are different values ​​and approaches shouldn't judge one another. However, what is apparently easier said than done when you look at the mass of older men targeted by a 16-year-old climate activist.

Employer responsibility: How to protect young employees from burnout

As already mentioned, the executive suite is responsible for ensuring that their employees can work without being exhausted and at the end of their tether after a short period of time. These two measures can already be of enormous help:

Do not keep silent on mental illness

As a company, an important step is to openly address issues such as excessive demands, anxiety, depression and burnout. Gives your employees the feeling that they are in a safe space and that they will find a contact person who will offer them assistance in the event of problems. This can take the form of an open consultation, offering a psychological counseling center as well as training on stress management and the like. If the Millennials and Gen Zers manage to talk openly about mental health and problems, then you as a company can do it too.

Does not insist on constant availability

It doesn't sound like much, but respecting the work-life balance of employees can bring a lot. The first step is to determine that the company chat should be switched off after work and on vacation. Communicate this rule clearly with your employees - and speak to an employee directly about it, should they take part in conversations with Slack and Co. during their well-deserved vacation. Also make it clear to employees that overtime should not be the rule and that someone who goes to the regular evening should not fear any consequences or disparaging looks or remarks as a result. Offers such as part-time work, home office and free hour planning can also help your employees develop a healthy work-life balance.

Give the younger generations a chance

In summary, it can be said that the prejudices about the generations must end first - on both sides. But Millennials and Gen Zers in particular shouldn't have to keep hearing that they are lazy and incompetent. This stamping alone can put an enormous strain on a person's psyche. Instead, other values ​​and other behaviors should be treated with respect and an attempt to understand the other side. It is also essential that psychological problems also play a role in working life and must be addressed and addressed accordingly. Anyone who still claims that depression and burnout are fads and character weaknesses seem to have done a lot wrong in their life. Fortunately, there are more and more employers and people in general who acknowledge and understand mental problems. This was also made clear by the previous Mental Health Day on October 10th, when people around the world shared their stories on social media, for example, and thus created awareness. And so at the end a video that shows that even a supposedly tough guy like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson can talk openly about depression. Then you can do it too.

The website du-bist-wichtig.com provides an overview of various self-help groups for those affected in Germany.