Why Gen Z Is More Open to Talking About Their Mental Health

Gen Zs talking about mental health with others and on social media

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

Generation Z refers to the generation born roughly between the years 1997 and 2012. They are the first generation to be completely raised with the Internet and smartphones, and have grown up with a very different experience of the world than previous generations.

Specifically, they are interconnected globally with a diverse range of people and largely communicate through technology and social media. This generation of over 60 million people in the United States is slowly starting to face real world challenges like paying for school, finding a job, and managing stress of daily life as an adult.

This raises the question: How is Gen Z handling their mental health compared to previous generations? They have grown up in tumultuous times that have included multiple stressors such as 9/11, school shootings, climate change, and political unrest, but this generation has consistently proven itself to be one that openly speaks about mental health.

Why Is Gen Z Using Therapy More Than Previous Generations?

In a report released by the American Psychiatric Association entitled “Stress in America: Generation Z” in October, 2019, Gen Z were more likely to have received treatment or gone to therapy (37%) compared to Millennials (35%), Gen X’ers (26%), Baby Boomers (22%), and the Silent Generation (15%). 

Furthermore, Gen Z were more likely to report their mental health as fair or poor (27%), compared to their older counterpart generations, namely Millennials (15%) and Gen X (13%).

The reason for this trend of increasing use of mental health services and reporting mental health being poor is likely threefold: 

  • Life has introduced a different variety of stressors, leading to increased psychological concerns and more need for services for mental health.
  • Awareness of mental health issues has grown, so that what once might have been ignored is recognized as a problem and treated as such.
  • Stigma around using mental health services has lessened, making it more likely that Gen Z will identify their own issues and seek help when they feel they have a mental health problem that can be treated.

Increased Psychological Concerns Among Gen Z

Gen Z has numerous reasons to feel more stressed than previous generations. Ultimately, stress can contribute to psychological concerns such as anxiety and depression. Below are some of the stressors that may be contributing to increased psychological issues among Gen Z.

  • 75% of Gen Z respondents (300 15- to 17-year-olds) reported feeling stress about mass school shootings in the Stress in America survey, conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of APA in July & August, 2018.
  • In another poll, it was reported that almost half of Gen Z respondents reported being connected online for 10 or more hours a day. More screen time means less time spent connecting with others in person, which could increase feelings of isolation and loneliness. Being ultra-connected could also mean more pressure and expectations with less downtime (e.g., if doing school or work online).
  • In the APA report, 91% of Gen Z respondents reported experiencing physical or psychological symptoms due to stress. Causes of stress were identified as money/work (64%), debt (33%), housing (31%), and hunger (28%). Of these, only half reported that they were doing enough to manage their stress.
  • Gen Z may also have increased stress due to world issues such as climate change, political climate, immigration, and fear about the future in general.
  • Gen Z is the first generation to be exposed to potentially harmful content through social media at a young age (e.g., self-harm videos).
  • Research from the University College London found that Gen Z was more likely to self-harm, have a poorer body image, skip sleep, be overweight, and have depression.
  • Gen Z also faces pressure related to social media and technology, including harassment (sexual or otherwise), bullying, and the need to conform.

Awareness: Why Gen Z Is More Open About Their Mental Health

It is also possible that the increased usage of therapy by Gen Z is a result of this generation being more open about their mental health. Being more aware of and accepting of mental health concerns in general will lead to more open discussion about psychological problems and how to manage stress.

What is the reason for Gen Z being more open about their mental health? There are likely multiple reasons. Prior generations may have paved the way for Gen Z's openness through increasing awareness of mental health and public campaigns to reduce stigma.

When these people on the Internet talk about their mental health struggles, this makes it easier for others around the world to talk about theirs, too.

Social media and the internet have connected Gen Z with other people’s stories, be it strangers on the Internet or celebrities and influencers.

All of these factors may have made it easier for Gen Z to talk openly about their mental health struggles compared to previous generations such as Millenials and Gen X (many of their parents' generation). Normalizing conversations about mental health mean that Gen Z has the ability to deal with their issues and move on rather than staying stuck—and that’s the choice many of them are making. 

This generation doesn’t want to be held back by mental health concerns. Rather, they’d like to get treatment for them so that they have good mental health to do the things that they want to do in life. They don’t want to be held back by mental health problems, because they have seen that it’s possible to feel better and want that for themselves.

Reduced Stigma: Why There Is Less Mental Health Stigma Among Gen Z

Another reason that Gen Z might be receiving treatment more often than previous generations is that there is less stigma around them asking for help.

Unlike Millenials and Gen X’ers, who still belonged to a generation in which talking about mental health problems or asking for help was viewed as unusual or wrong, Gen Z are part of a cohort who doesn’t feel that same stigma. This begs the question: why is there less stigma for this generation? Why has the stigma lessened in the era of Gen Z?

Normalizing Mental Health Treatment

Gen Z has grown up in a world where it’s normal and considered natural to get treatment for psychological problems. They don’t know any different and so they don't attach any bad feelings to speaking about it.

Asking for help for mental health is viewed as a strength rather than a weakness among Gen Z, the same as going to the doctor for a broken bone would be seen as a smart thing to do.

Social Media to Destigmatize

Social media has helped to normalize mental health problems and reduce stigma among this generation through interconnectedness and shared understanding. Gen Z has a feeling of social support through their connections online that previous generations did not have.

Gen Z has grown up in an age where getting help is promoted and normalized (e.g., seeing ads for online therapy on social media). Baby Boomers didn’t see the Internet emerge in many cases until their 40’s and 50s. Gen X wasn’t regularly on the Internet until their late 20’s. Some Millenials grew up with the Internet but others did not.

In contrast, Gen Z has grown up with the full spectrum of awareness when it comes to mental health. Rather than being hidden in the shadows, mental health is discussed in the same way that one would talk about brushing their teeth or washing their hair. Social media and the Internet is largely the driving force behind this change in perspective, along with gradually changing views in mainstream media and public perception.

Call Out Culture

Gen Z has grown up in a world where it is the norm for stigma to be called out as unacceptable. This is especially evident in how language has changed (i.e., certain terms referring to mental health have become unacceptable to use because of their negative connotation).

Generations prior to Gen Z were often more limited in what they knew about mental health to what their parents told them, what they learned in school, and what was generally whispered or gossiped about in their personal lives and in popular culture.

 What Other Generations Can Learn From Gen Z

What can other generations learn from Gen Z when it comes to being more open about mental health concerns, seeking treatment when it’s warranted, and reducing stigma? Below are some takeaways for anyone in an older generation than Gen Z.

Social Media Isn't All Bad

There is a tendency for those from other generations, particularly Gen X and Baby Boomers, to consider the Internet and online world to be a negative distraction for younger generations. However, this perspective doesn’t take into account the benefits of being connected to others on a global scale.

Other generations could learn from Gen Z that interconnectedness online allows for a broadening of perspectives, greater tolerance for differences, and more acceptance of mental health issues in general.

Generational Learning

For those who are parents of Gen Z children, the lesson to be learned is that your children are already likely more open and authentic than you when it comes to mental health.

For this reason, it’s important to listen to them when they talk to you about their mental health concerns rather than to brush these off or change the subject. Gen Z is used to talking openly about their mental health, and they need their parents to follow suit.

Screen Time Is Connection

Although some from the older generations might equate screen time with isolation and loneliness, Gen Z utilizes screen time to make connections and feel less alone.

Other generations could learn from this in terms of broadening their perspective of what constitutes friendship or connection. Did you have a pen pal growing up? In the digital era, pen pals have moved online. Don’t discount the importance of online connections in an increasingly digital world. 

No Limitations

Previous generations to Gen Z may have used their mental health or mental illness as a reason for being limited in life.

However, Gen Z is aware that mental health is just one aspect of their lives, and one that can be improved with help.

Other generations could learn that treating mental health isn’t showing your weakness; rather, it’s building your strength.

Open Communication

Gen Z is used to talking openly about their mental health, and other generations could learn from this. Open communication among families, between parents and kids, and among generations will mean less adults with emotional baggage.

What’s more, talking openly about mental health can help to inform the younger generation of what to expect in their own lives. Knowing that a family member has struggled with a particular issue could help them to communicate with doctors about their own risk. Keeping mental health in the shadows helps no one.

Active In Treatment

Finally, Gen Z has taught other generations that being active in your own treatment and recovery is critical for managing stress and moving toward getting what you want out of life. Rather than avoiding the problem, facing it and finding help is the best strategy for managing mental health.

A Word From Verywell

Each generation’s perspective is rooted in the environment in which they were raised. Regardless of how much stress Gen Z continually seems to endure, it’s true that every generation has had their own type of stress and dealt with it in their own way. Change is necessary to evolve to a better way of living, and this change is inevitable. Regardless of what generation you belong to, keep your eyes and ears open so that you can keep current. What might feel wrong to you today, could be the norm tomorrow. As they say, the only thing constant is that there will be change.  

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Brantley B. The Data Briefing: The Arrival of Generation Z into the Federal Government. And Generation A?

  2. American Psychological Association. Stress in America: Generation Z.

  3. Media Kix. The 11 Generation Z Statistics Advertisers Must Know.

  4. Independent. Generation Z teenagers have more mental health problems despite drops in smoking, drugs and antisocial behavior.

By Arlin Cuncic, MA
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." She has a Master's degree in psychology.