January 4th, 2024
Lately, our exploration of internet data from UKAT London Clinic’s mental health clinic has unveiled intriguing trends. Notably, women aged 35-44 stand out as a highly engaged audience, taking the lead in connecting with the content we curate. Close behind are women in the 45-54 age bracket, as well as those in the younger demographics of 18-24 and 25-34.
However, a distinctive pattern emerges among the more seasoned, wiser generations, particularly those aged 55-64 and 65+. We’ve observed a somewhat lower level of interaction with our content from these age groups. This observation prompts us to ponder whether they are exuding a heightened sense of happiness that transcends the digital realm.
We want to take a closer look at how mental health has evolved across the generations, delving into the unique struggles and triumphs each generation has faced and how these experiences might shape the way people from different age groups engage with mental health services today.
Baby Boomer Generation
From 1946 to 1964, the Baby Boomer Generation witnessed a distinctive set of challenges and perceptions surrounding mental health. The prevailing cultural attitudes of this era significantly shaped the stigma and limited awareness associated with mental health issues.
Stigma and Perception
Back in the Baby Boomer era, mental health concerns wore a heavy cloak of stigma. Seeking help was often seen as taboo (if help was even available), wrapped up in a cultural norm that championed the idea of “toughing it out.” This created an environment where sharing vulnerability became a rarity. Sadly, mental health concerns were too frequently brushed aside, adding to a prevailing culture of silence surrounding psychological well-being.
The Boomer generation was a time when awareness and understanding of mental health issues were scant. It potentially led to underdiagnosis because the subject wasn’t on everyone’s lips. Mental health wasn’t a hot topic in public discourse, leaving many in the dark about the various forms of mental health disorders. This lack of information might have made it tough for individuals to recognise and address their mental health needs, adding to the challenges of the generation.
Men were expected to be pillars of stoicism, to hold back their emotions and seeking help went against this narrative. Open discussions about emotional struggles were discouraged by societal norms, creating this belief that expressing vulnerability didn’t quite align with traditional masculinity. As a result, many men might have faced their mental health challenges in silence, contributing to the overall lack of awareness and understanding.
But it wasn’t just men; women also struggled with gender norms and expectations, albeit in different ways. Societal expectations for women often revolved around traditional roles such as being caregivers and nurturing and prioritising family over personal aspirations. Women were sometimes expected to be accommodating, polite and agreeable, which could lead to difficulties in asserting themselves or pursuing careers that deviated from traditional gender roles.
In both cases, these gender norms imposed limitations on people of that era, and such expectations could have contributed to mental health challenges for both men and women.
Generation X faced significant challenges regarding mental health, marked by enduring stigma and a prevailing culture of silence. The reluctance to discuss mental health openly during this era stemmed from deeply ingrained societal beliefs and perceptions.
Stigma and silence
The stigma surrounding mental health during Generation X made it tough for individuals to open up about their struggles, just like their mothers and fathers. Mental health issues were unfairly seen through a lens of shame and weakness, which made it pretty challenging for people to admit they were going through a tough time. This fear of judgement and societal bias turned seeking help into something that felt like admitting personal failure. So, many folks faced their mental health battles alone, hesitant to share their experiences because of those prevailing social norms.
Accessibility to mental health resources back then was a real challenge. The services and support systems were less widespread and well-known than they are today. Imagine trying to find help in a world where information about mental health services was not as readily available. This lack of awareness and the scarcity of resources meant that many people needed more support to face their struggles.
The way mental health was portrayed in the media during Generation X wasn’t as diverse or nuanced as it is now. Media depictions often reinforce stereotypes and spread misconceptions about mental health issues.
The Shining, for example, portrays mental health as the villain, the ‘crazy guy’ who chops people up because his hallucinations tell him to do so. Movies like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest scare people into the horrors of mental institutes. This, unfortunately, added to the hesitation individuals felt about opening up. The lack of accurate and positive portrayals in popular culture hindered the development of a more compassionate and informed societal attitude toward mental health.
The Millennial generation was when we started to see a difference in mental health ideas and practices. Although much work needed to be done, it was certainly a good starting point.
More screen time, social media likes, virtual friends and yet a lingering sense of isolation. Despite our digital togetherness, many Millennials yearned for meaningful, heart-to-heart connections.
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Millennials faced a turbulent economic climate that required astute navigation. Imagine building a future on shaky ground while dealing with the constant pressure to excel in a job market that seemed to change faster than the latest TikTok trend.
The world expected them to dance through the challenges with grace, meet educational milestones, and conquer the professional realm while maintaining their sanity.
So, amid this whirlwind, mental health took a hit. The stressors piled up, and individuals grappled with the monumental task of achieving personal and professional goals.
A shift in ideas
But, a silver lining formed. As Millennials navigated the landscape of evolving attitudes towards mental health, there was this palpable sense of positive change. Conversations about mental health became more common, shedding the cloak of stigma that had lingered for too long.
Our understanding of mental health also changed. In 2001, the World Health Organisation dedicated its annual report, “The World Health Report – Mental Health: New Knowledge, New Hope,” to mental health. That same year, the theme of World Health Day was a heartfelt plea: “Stop Exclusion – Dare to Care.” It was a global embrace, urging us all to be more compassionate and to care for one another in our shared journey toward mental well-being.
Whilst Gen Z shares many of the same issues with mental health as Millenials do, some monumental changes are still evolving today. The first thing is that people are talking more about mental health now. The digital world has transformed into a hub of information on mental well-being. From handy apps to uplifting podcasts and even international mental health awareness days, huge changes have been made thanks to technology.
Accessibility to help is on the rise, too. Take the UK, for example. They’ve introduced a fantastic initiative called Improving Access to Talking Therapies. Since 2008, it’s been making counselling services more accessible through the NHS. So now, our amazing Gen Z friends can reach out for professional help when needed.
Amid these wild digital challenges, there’s a real glimmer of hope. The more we talk about mental health, the more support systems emerge. Combine that with clever tech solutions, and you have a recipe for facing these unique challenges head-on.
Final thoughts and a look at the stats
Our exploration of mental health, based on the access that people from different generations would have had, has been intriguing. Recognising that all humans, regardless of age or gender, can experience mental health issues is crucial to ensuring that everyone receives the necessary help.
The older generation may be less inclined to seek help independently, influenced by the perception of mental health during their upbringing. Alternatively, they may be less inclined to embrace technology compared to newer generations.
However, the positive trend we observe is that generations following the Baby Boomers appear more willing to engage with mental health services. Our website traffic analysis reveals that Millennials constitute the highest user group. It’s plausible to suggest that most Millennials grew up in a society where mental health was increasingly acknowledged and understood, explaining the significant numbers in our traffic. This notion could be easily applied to the Gen Z bracket, too.
Following closely are Generation X individuals, for whom mental health may have been more of a taboo during their formative years. These numbers might indicate that Gen X individuals are actively educating themselves about a topic that was once considered taboo, signifying success in the ongoing effort to raise awareness about mental health. Contact us today!