Stigma in the 1990s
In the 1990s, mental illness was highly stigmatized even though books like Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel were beginning to push back against the stigma. Many young people, teenagers and 20-somethings, hid their mental health issues, including common problems such as anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, despite attempts to cover their issues, they came out in other ways, such as poor sleeping habits (insomnia), substance abuse, or self destructive behaviors such as self-harm. In Wurtzel's book, she talks about suicidality, depression, and alludes to having Borderline Personality Disorder. At the time Prozac Nation was released, mental illness was such a taboo topic that the book was considered a controversial work.
Millennials Care About Mental Health
In the 21st century, millennials are way more open about their mental health issues. There is not as much of a problem concerning speaking about mental illness, and with websites like The Mighty or Stigma Fighters, many millennials are open in speaking about their challenges. The dialogue is changing because millennials are sick and tired of being told to silence their problems. This generation is about advocacy and fighting back against those who do not take these very real issues seriously. Previous generations put up with being silenced; millennials have taken their voice to a new level. They’ve become active rather than passive. This generation believes in advocacy and takes proactive steps to fight for mental health awareness. In the 21st century, people who are in their late-thirties and older withstood being silenced in their youth, whereas millennials have become activists for mental health awareness. In the 20th century, people were passive about their mental health and went to therapy in secret. "These times, they are a-changing," in the words of Bob Dylan (definitely not a millennial).
Why Do They Care So Much?
The question is: why millennials are so open about their mental health? One of the simplest answers: their parents were silenced. However, these parents decided to advocate for their children (the millennial generation) to live happier and healthier lives – the lives they wanted but could not have. They empowered their kids to be truthful with their struggles. Consequently, millennials are taking their voices and running with them all the way to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).
Not All Millennials are Entitled
Millennials get a bad rap about being entitled or believing that the world “owes them something." It isn’t helpful to view them this way – not everyone in this generation like that. Anyone can have a sense of entitlement, millennial or not. The stereotype of somebody who believes the world owes them something doesn’t only apply to this generation. Millennials are a diverse group of individuals with something in common: a sense of purpose and confidence in their opinions. When you're not afraid to speak your mind, you’re likely to be highly successful.
Trying Online Therapy
Millennials aren't afraid to try new things from dating, to the newest Instagrammable food trends, and yes, things that were previously considered taboo or unspoken, like mental health services. They are open to fresh experiences. They often want to try counseling and more specifically – online therapy. They are more likely to try working with an online psychologist, as many of them are busy professionals, and would prefer to work with a virtual therapist. Millennials are leading the way concerning mental health awareness, and they have the right idea! They know the importance of mental health treatment. Regardless of your age, therapy is a great tool to maintain psychological health. Whether you’re working with an online therapist or somebody in your area, therapy is one of the best things that you can do for yourself.
Abour the Author
Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Quartz, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York.
Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.