Millennials appear to be uniquely poised to make a difference in a misunderstood field that can have a devastating impact on people.

These young people grew up in a society in which people reach out for mental health solutions more than any previous generation — and still there are stigmas attached to asking for help. Raised on social media, where there are no secrets, they are bucking the trends of secrecy and shame about mental health issues. With technology at their fingertips, they want solutions.

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“Mental health issues affect every one of us every day,” Dr. John Huber, a clinical forensic psychologist in Austin, Texas, told LifeZette. “We as a society are finally aware this is a problem and we see it every day with our social media.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five Americans suffers from a mental illness each year.

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Huber, who is also a psychology professor at Texas State University, has worked with and taught many students. He sees millennials leading the way in mental health change as a natural progression from their unique perspective on life. He also points to one key factor: women.

Looking to Serve a Larger Purpose
“Millennials are the largest, most educated generation,” he said. “Millennial women now outperform millennial men in higher education and are graduating with 170,000 more degrees each year than men. With women now taking a lead, they are helping us address a more emotional personal perspective than ever before.”

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Each generation has had its hurdle with mental health, according to Chuck Underwood of Miamisburg, Ohio, author of “America’s Generations in the Workplace, Marketplace and Living Room,” and host of the PBS series “America’s Generations with Chuck Underwood.”

“To their generation, everything is and should be ‘out there,’ including mental health issues.”

The G.I. generation (current age 91+) and the silent generation (current age 72 to 90) had to deal with mental issues on their own, and usually unsuccessfully due to social stigma. After the unspeakable horrors of WWII, many considered anyone who visited a psychiatrist or psychologist to be insane.

The baby boomers (current age 53 to 71) slowly brought the notion of compassion to mental problems after the fallout of the Vietnam War. The Gen Xers (current age 36 to 52) endured their parents’ skyrocketing divorce rates and were “latchkey kids” who tended to cocoon themselves. Finally, the millennials, or the technology generation, have chosen to place the intimacies of their lives on worldwide display.

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“To their generation, there are no secrets,” said Underwood. “Everything is and should be ‘out there,’ including mental health issues.”

Another Strong Motivator
Many millennials’ own experiences with mental health challenges have spurred them to action. Anxiety and panic attacks plagued Jordan Johnson, of Tempe, Arizona, in 2013. She co-founded a nonprofit called Inner Explorer, which aims to confront mental health issues early in life by bringing mindfulness practice to K-12 teachers and students.

She believes the mental health system suffers because it is missing two important links: 1.) quality primary education about mental health issues and solutions; and 2.) empathy for those experiencing these issues.

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In an effort to change the current statistic that 50 percent of all people needing mental health care don’t get treatment, therapist Rachel Kazez of Chicago founded All Along, LLC to help people find therapy in a quick, efficient manner.

“As a millennial, I want my work to help break the barriers that block people from being able to find the right treatment and understand mental health,” she said. “I have knowledge of the mental health system combined with entrepreneurship, marketing, technology, and clinical knowledge, and this combination has allowed me to start this new kind of service. This helps us address a problem in the most effective way possible.”

Being effective is a keyword with a generation raised on rapid communication, immediate solutions, and transparency. And millennials are in a prime position to turn the tide of public opinion on mental health issues, said Johnson: “The more transparent, more compassionate, and less clinical we are about confronting mental illness, the better off we’ll be.”

Pat Barone, MCC, is a professional credentialed coach and author of the Own Every Bite! bodycentric re-education program for mindful and intuitive eating, who helps clients heal food addictions.