Good News for Stigma Fighters

Posted · Add Comment

The statistics are grim:

  • 350 million people worldwide currently live with some form of depression.
    • More than 50% (in many countries, more than 90%) do not receive treatment (WHO)
  • Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the US age 18 and older
    • 70% do not receive treatment (NAMI)
  • One in four college students has a diagnosable mental illness

BUT the future looks bright!

We typically see the big changes that have thus far characterized the 21st Century as negative, but there are some social shifts about which we can be optimistic. One is the opportunity today’s culture presents for understanding mental health.

  • A Desire for Authenticity

One point parents can agree on is that millennials value authenticity. They are a “get real” generation. We know this because when we try to relate to our kids by acting and talking like them, we usually crash and burn.

“It’s as if your parents are trying to connect with you and they’re trying to do it by using the same language that your friends would,” says Paul Angone (age 32), the author of two books on millennials. “Talking in emojis, for instance, ‘comes off as pandering and inauthentic.'” The problem is that parents’ well-intended efforts often come off as inauthentic. (Bloomberg)

More and more businesses are recognizing this to be true as well, and they are taking notice. They have to, as millennials now make up the majority of the workforce in the US. This is a generation that grew up with the ability to access information anytime/anywhere and to share that information with the click of a mouse (or trackpad).

The reality is that “globalization, social media and the advent of sites like GlassDoor have made it virtually impossible for companies to keep their secrets.” One company that understands the millennial “get real” mentality and takes it to heart is goBrando! Go to work at this company, and you’ll find their financials posted on the wall! (

  • An Attitude of Openness

We’ve come a long way since parents told their children, don’t speak until spoken to. Today, instead, parents encourage children to speak their minds and even to challenge authority.

One positive result of the shift away from an authoritarian parenting style is that parents are spending more time with their children and are more engaged in their lives. This new level of interaction opens up more topics of conversation, as well as the time and freedom to address serious issues that we simply did not talk about before, even with our own children.

“I think it’s a great thing overall that there’s this wonderful closeness between parents and emerging adults today, and I really think it’s unprecedented in human history,” says Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a research professor at Clark University in Massachusetts and director of the Clark Poll of Emerging Adults. (NPR)

And while one might think that everything about a recession is negative, including the fact that it drives young people back home to live with their parents, what is interesting is that the circumstances also drive twentysomethings to look to their parents for emotional support. That means parents still have the opportunity to influence the way children perceive the world and visa versa.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not naïve. I know that there is still a stigma. But millennials are coming of age, starting college, and entering the workforce, bringing with them a desire for authenticity and an attitude of openness that can only move the Stigma Fighters’ cause forward. And while I believe the generations must work together to thoughtfully consider how new values and attitudes translate into cultural norms, I am excited about the opportunity the twenty-first century brings for having more effective intergenerational conversations about how to better understand and manage mental health disorders.

There is good reason to be optimistic that we can change how people think about mental illness sooner rather than later. Now is the time to help people recognize that “mental diseases are real, diagnosable and often treatable,” and that a person with mental illness should be treated just like a person with a physical disease. (Forbes)