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Charles Lattarulo joined American Express to lead its behavioral health program five years ago, employees seeking mental wellness services were typically referred to a phone-in employee assistance program that few people utilized. With more and more young employees joining the workforce, he realized that a different approach was needed to meet their unique needs.
“Millennials are under different stressors than older workers,” he said. “They are the first generation to make less money than their parents, the first generation with a lot of debt coming in to work, and the first generation to grow up with social media. They don’t mind posting about their lives, but they may not seek help.”
Those born between 1978 and 1999 are also struggling with depression in greater numbers — more so than other generations in the workforce, according to a 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association. Given that millennials make up the largest segment of the U.S. workforce, employers have reason to be concerned, according to Mike Thompson, mental health advocate and president and CEO of National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions.
“Considering how important millennials are to the current and future makeup of their workforce it’s critical that employers address their expectations and needs,” he said. “The fact that depression rates among young adults could be increasing should be highly alarming.”
In fact, between 2005 and 2014 the number of depressed teens jumped by more than half a million, according to a recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics. Many seem to be bringing these struggles to work.
According to the American Psychology Association, 39 percent of millennials say their stress increased last year, compared to 36 percent of Gen Xers, 33 percent of baby boomers and 29 percent of “matures” — workers over 67.
To educate employees about mental illness, particularly younger workers, and encourage them to seek help, American Express launched the Healthy Minds program in 2012. The initiative, headed by Lattarulo, uses upbeat messages and novel approaches to mental health awareness, such as bringing in a standup comic to talk about depression.
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