For many people, the beginning of a new year inspires us to reflect on the previous year and set a goal or resolution for the upcoming year. For the oldest Gen Zers, many are setting a goal to improve their mental health in 2023. A recent Forbes Health poll found that 50 percent of adults aged 18-25 cited improved mental health as their top new year’s resolution. Their commitment to mental health eclipsed their desire to improve fitness (49%), improve their diet (33%) and lose weight (31%).
As the nation faces a youth mental health crisis, Gen Z is looking to invest in their mental well-being. And many in Gen Z are turning to social media to learn about mental health and start important conversations.
“Gen Z is definitely receiving messages about mental health on social media. TikTok has become a big place where younger generations are consuming that content,” says Paris Clark, Manager of Outpatient Therapy at PACES. “They’re also vocalizing when they are not at their best on social media.”
Unlike previous generations, many Gen Zers do not hesitate to talk openly about their mental health or to seek professional help when needed. And for Diane Victory, Manager of Community-Based Clinical Programs at PACES, that’s an encouraging sign.
“When you reach out and advocate for what you need, that’s an act of courage. We’re looking at a courageous generation,” says Victory.
While social media has served to help normalize conversions about mental health, it can also lead young people to try and self-diagnose potential mental health challenges.
“When you are hearing so much information and you start to identify with all of it, you start to un-normalize normal feelings,” says Victory. “But we all should be sad when something sad happens. Or be mad when something infuriating happens. If you have a concern, I would shy away from self-diagnosis and reach out to someone who can give you accurate information.”
Clark and Victory agree that the best thing Gen Zers can do to bolster their mental health is to examine their daily routines.
“Take stock and invest,” suggests Victory. “Identify what are your drainers? What are your energizers? And then invest in the things that bring you joy.”
The trusted adults in a young person’s life – parents, teachers, coaches, etc. – also have a role to play when it comes to supporting their mental health journey.
“Just listen,” says Clark. “Accept that their feelings are real. Sometimes when feelings are expressed, especially by younger generations, they’re dismissed as being whiny. We need to move toward validation, even if we don’t get it. It doesn’t have to make sense to us. It’s about being there for them in that moment and letting them be heard. Sometimes that’s all we really want is to be heard.”
Victory and Clark say they are encouraged by Gen Z’s attitude toward mental health and what that means for mental health outcomes moving forward. They also share their best piece of advice as Gen Z looks to improve their mental health in 2023.
“Identify your team,” says Victory. “Know who is going to cheer you on and always have your back. Know who those people are and lean on them.”
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” adds Clark. “We do better together.”