Depression and ‘deaths of despair’ are rising at a faster rate for millennials than for any other age group. Many millennials suffer from loneliness, financial struggles, and employee burnout. Your healthcare organization may see an increase in absenteeism and employee turnover if proactive measures are not put in place.
Millennials are the first generation to grow up with the technological advances that completely shifted how we live, work and play. Social media use gave way to increased levels of both perfectionism and loneliness. Millennials are also the first generation to earn less than their parents, as they battle increased housing costs, healthcare costs, and student loan debt. Increased workloads, limited staff and resources as well as longer hours are further contributing to employee burnout.
According to a report from Blue Cross Blue Shield, millennials have seen a 47% increase in major depression diagnoses since 2013. Millennials who work irregular hours or night shifts, like some healthcare providers, are particularly vulnerable to depression, according to The American Journal of Public Health.
This is a sobering reality for healthcare organizations. Fifty percent of millennials have left a job due to mental health reasons. The World Health Organization identifies depression as the leading cause of disability world-wide, costing the global economy $1trillion per year in lost productivity.
What can healthcare organizations do to protect themselves and their millennial healthcare providers from this debilitating disorder?
Millennials possess a higher level of insight into their own mental health than generations before them. They grew up during a push to destigmatize mental health disorders. Throughout their lives, millennials have been encouraged to openly talk about mental health. Attending therapy sessions and taking psychotropic medications is considered normal for this generation.
Then, these millennials became of age entered the workforce.
It is no longer appropriate or acceptable to express concern regarding one’s own mental health. The workplace has not yet made the same paradigm shift that millennials were immersed in during their formative years, leaving millennials to fight the disorder in silence.
To nurture the health of your millennial employees, it is essential that your organization creates a healthy workplace environment, where expressing concern about mental health is both acceptable and encouraged.
To facilitate a healthy, supportive work environment:
- Offer an Employee Assistance Program, with an emphasis on mental health.
- Create a Wellness Program, focusing on a positive work-life balance.
- Enforce paid time off, with an emphasis on mental health days.
- Create a technology or phone policy, to reduce social media dependency at work.
- Enforce lunch breaks and coffee breaks away from the desk, encouraging socialization between employees.
- Start a company-wide educational program to increase awareness and reduce stigma.
- Set up a mentoring program for immediate and personal support.
- Offer further education for all employees, including education surrounding mental health.
- Create mental health policies to prevent or address discrimination and stigma.
- Implement employee engagement screenings to prevent burnout.
- Offer a comprehensive health insurance policy that covers mental health.
- Train all management in identifying mental health red flags.
The best way to create a culture that supports mental health is to be sure your healthcare providers experience their jobs in a meaningful and purposeful way.
Millennials, in particular, are less concerned about financial incentives and more concerned about a rewarding career experience. This can be achieved by giving healthcare providers the autonomy they need and the resources to do their job.
If your team of healthcare providers feels supported and trusted, they will generally be happier at work, which will reduce the risk of burnout and mental health problems. This will be a win for your organization in turn, as employee turnover and recruitment costs decrease over time.