Groups Address Mental Health Challenges Facing 'Gen Z'
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Mental health has emerged as a pressing issue for young Pennsylvanians in "Generation Z," born after 1996. Research shows they are also more willing to talk about it than previous generations.
Christine Michaels, CEO of NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania, said coming out of the pandemic has been the biggest challenge facing Gen Z, with depression, anxiety and suicide attempts on the rise. She said nearly 3/4 of mental health conditions emerge by age 24, and NAMI Keystone provides resources and programs to help guide and support these conversations.
"We use young people to go into the schools and tell their story about how they had mental health issues," she explained. "Some have a diagnosis and have treatment and everything; they tell their story and tell how they managed to get through it."
Michaels noted NAMI has 28 affiliate chapters in eastern Pennsylvania that work with local schools to try to reduce any stigma.
Michaels said Generation Z is very computer literate. They also value 'apps' that make it easier to schedule health appointments, manage conditions and look up data.
"There are a lot of online services now - telehealth has been advanced during the pandemic," Michaels said. "There are online providers, more than there ever was. And so, that opens up some services and some treatment for the young people that that wasn't there before."
Dr. Donald Tavakoli, national medical director for behavioral health with UnitedHealthcare, explained as this generation starts to enter the workforce, they can use their tech-savvy skills to learn about how health insurance works.
"We think it's really important that they first have their health insurance lingo down, really understanding the common terms of how to navigate health insurance," he said. "Then choose the benefit plan that is right for them. And then really maximize the benefits, once they are enrolled in their health plan."
He added Gen Z adults up to age 26 can maintain coverage on certain plans through their parents' health insurance, giving them some time to transition.
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