A new generation will surpass millennials in numbers this year, and savvy mental health marketers are already looking at effective ways to reach this market as the first wave of Generation Z reaches adulthood. Resources differ on the exact year of demarcation for Gen Z, but the term basically refers to people born around or after the turn of the century.
This post-millennial generation isn’t simply a more digitally connected version of its millennial counterparts. New studies highlight important distinctions, nuances, and concerns of todays adolescents that offer insights into the best ways to reach them with mental health information.
Importantly, an American Psychological Association study released in October found that today’s teens and young adults are the most likely of all generations to report poor mental health and are significantly more likely to seek professional help for such issues. Whether this finding means that Gen Z has higher rates of mental illness or simply is more aware and accepting of such problems, their openness to the topics provides a prime entree for messages about resources and treatment options.
While people in all age groups report stress from current events that dominate the news, this age group is particularly stressed by them. Having grown up in a culture where school shootings are an ever-present concern, it’s no surprise that 75 percent cited this threat as a significant source of stress. They are also more stressed than adults about social issues such as sexual harassment, climate change, suicide rates, and the separation and deportation of immigrant families. A full 80 percent of Gen Z young adults also cited money as significant sources of stress.
This generation is also very attuned to and affected by the opioid and heroin epidemic; half of them know at least one person with an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Over a third say they wouldn’t know how to get help for someone facing this problem – highlighting a clear area of opportunity for marketers in addiction facilities.
In fact, a Pew Research Center study released last month found that 70 percent of Gen Z teens surveyed saw mental health issues as a major problem for their peers. It’s a good news/bad news statistic – this increased awareness of mental health issues and concern for peers may pave the way toward further reducing stigma and helping teens access care.
These findings provide mental health marketers with some fertile opportunities for reaching out to Generation Z now and in the future. Consider these ideas when brainstorming and developing campaigns to reach today’s teens and young adults:
- Gen Z is the most digitally savvy generation yet, never having known life any other way. Their use of social media is different than even millennials; target your efforts toward their specific preferences. For instance, they are more likely to use SnapChat, Instagram and YouTube than Facebook. Wearable devices will increasingly be a prime digital access point for them, and communicators should take that into account.
- This generation will be actively engaged in seeking and managing their mental health care and will expect providers to be more connected to them. For instance, an app for tracking moods and mitigating factors – with an option to download the data to providers for feedback – would inspire much more engagement from Gen Zers.
- Gen Z comes equipped with strong BS filters. Much less trusting of brands and institutions than previous generations, they are more influenced by individuals like peers, social media influencers, or online reviews. They are used to parsing out quality information from fake or misleading news and expect authenticity and transparency.
- Gen Z has distinct areas of concern that offer mental health care providers opportunities for discussion and engagement. Craft messages and programs around areas of specific concern for this age group, such as school shootings, addiction, depression or cyberbullying. Stay attuned to stress-inducing events in your community and in the national news and use these as springboards to raise awareness about relevant resources and interventions your program offers.
This is all great information for mental health marketers. If you happen to also be a parent, there’s a bit of good news, too. A new study suggests treating teens with mental health issues improves the parents’ mental health outlook as well.