Next generation of workers bring openness about mental health

Feb 10, 2016

Awareness and a willingness to talk about mental health issues is growing among young people aged 18-24, and they’re bringing these attitudes into the workplace. Are employers ready to follow their lead? asks the founder of Canadian youth charity Jack.org.

In the five years since Eric Windeler established Jack.org – in memory of his son who took his own life in 2010 – much has changed. A 2015 Nielsen survey found that awareness of mental health conditions is at an all-time high among young people. Today, 18-24 year olds are more likely to seek support for themselves than their peers were five years ago, as well as extending that help to a friend, classmate or colleague.

In this article published in Canada’s Globe and Mail, Eric outlines how the next generation of workers are likely to influence workplace culture, as well as some of their expectations when it comes to creating supportive environments. With millennials set to make up 75 per cent of the work force over the next 10 years, these values and attitudes will surely have a growing influence on workplace culture.

“I’ve seen the future,” he writes. “Everyone on my staff belongs to the millennial generation, as do the national network of students we work with. They have a progressive approach to mental health, and they expect that from me as well.

“We have a lot to gain by creating open and supportive workplaces. More and more, young people are beginning to value an organisation’s culture over compensation. A progressive approach will become a recruiting differentiator for businesses to attract the best and the brightest young people to contribute to their success. And to keep them.”

Young people might be at the forefront of the cultural shift happening in our workplaces, but they’re not the only ones to benefit from a working environment that focuses on wellbeing and keeps stresses to a minimum. Regardless of age, mentally healthy workplace work better for everyone.

Tips on creating a supportive working environment

  • Learn about the signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression, and how to spot them in workmates and team members.
  • If you’re concerned about a colleague or team member, start by having a conversation.
  • Treat mental health the same you would physical health – talk about it openly, for example, and offer flexible working arrangements and reasonable adjustments if people need additional support.
  • Clearly communicate any changes you're implementing, and make sure it’s two-way – feedback is your friend! We’ve created a communications pack so you don’t have to start from scratch.     

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