Redefining care: the evolution of mental health support for millennial women

Homewood Health experts share insights on the dynamic between digital solutions and workplace policies in addressing unique challenges faced by millennial women

Redefining care: the evolution of mental health support for millennial women

This article was produced in partnership with Homewood Health.

Millennial women navigate a complex array of responsibilities, from childcare and career advancement to caring for aging parents, all while managing their own mental health. The financial burden of healthcare and societal expectations compounds these challenges, making access to mental health resources crucial yet often secondary.

In conversation with the Canadian HR reporter, Emma Rickard, Regional Director - EFAP Western Canada and Katherine Sisak, Regional Director- EFAP Eastern Canada, at Homewood Health highlight the complexities millennial women face and the pivotal role of tailored mental health care and workplace policies in supporting this demographic.

Sisak and Rickard find the emphasis on flexibility and choice in virtual mental healthcare options has become increasingly important, especially for a cohort that deeply values these aspects. This perspective has opened significant opportunities for mental health providers to explore and adapt to these expectations.

The integration of digital solutions into mental health care is a clear response to this demand. Often, these digital options are not just standalone solutions but are offered in a hybrid format. This approach combines the best of both worlds, allowing clients to choose between or blend online and in-person care according to their preferences and needs.

With retention and recruitment being a key concern, leaders have been challenged to look to employees as holistic people and be curious not just about performance and attendance, but them as human beings and what their needs and wants are.  

Unique challenges faced by millennial women

According to the Deloitte Global 2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey, 43 percent of millennial women feel stressed or anxious all or most of the time, with work pressures driving high levels of burnout. The report also states that 42 percent of all millennials feel that caretaking responsibilities have significantly impacted their mental health.

Sisak highlights that the division of labor and financial stressors exacerbate mental health issues for millennial women. Many find themselves overburdened by the necessity of juggling full-time employment with additional side hustles, diminishing their free time and exacerbating mental health problems.

The traditional roles of caregiver and the associated emotional labor further strain their mental well-being, leading to increased rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns.

Rickard says, “It's increasingly acknowledged that historically, women have been prescribed and told what their needs are and how to get better. Consequently, I think there's a nice shift now towards recognising that women and millennial women in particular are experts in their own experience.

“As mental health clinicians, we need to be curious and inquiring and invite their contributions and participation. People need to collaborate here recognising that millennial women have some unique challenges that are different from other generations before.”

Adapting mental healthcare to meet their needs

“In our collaboration with women, recognizing them as the foremost experts on their own lives, we've seen a shift in our language to reflect this understanding,” Sisak says.

“Adopting an anti-oppressive, feminist approach, we're updating our terminology to acknowledge the diversity and complexity of family structures. This includes recognizing and valuing the variety of family forms, such as mother-led families, among others. These changes in language are significant indicators of our commitment to inclusivity and respect for all individuals' unique experiences and perspectives.”

Interestingly, some shifts in mental health care delivery, initially not tailored specifically for millennial women, have proven to be particularly beneficial for them. A clear example of this was the transition toward virtual and digital services was slowly developing, but was significantly accelerated by the pandemic.

Even though the pandemic has ended, ongoing research supports that clinical outcomes from virtual healthcare delivery can be as good as, or even better than, in-person services in many scenarios. This is not to say that in-person care isn't necessary for some; however, for millennial women, who have integrated technology into their daily lives from a young age, the ability to access quality mental health resources online is transformative.

Whether it’s through mindfulness apps, online cognitive behavioral therapy, or counselling via phone or video, the increased accessibility is a game changer. This shift addresses previous barriers and enhances the ability to obtain needed support conveniently and effectively.

Breaking down barriers and building understanding

The conversation around mental health has also evolved, with Rickard crediting the contributions of millennials and millennial women in particular. They deserve a great deal of credit for pushing mental health into the public discourse, playing a pivotal role in diminishing the stigma that once surrounded it.

Rickard says, “Having spent three decades in mental healthcare, I've witnessed an extraordinary shift in mental health literacy among the general population. This increase in awareness and understanding is nothing short of remarkable.

“Part of this transformation can certainly be attributed to our move into a digital age, which has facilitated wider and more immediate access to information and resources. This shift not only broadens understanding but also empowers individuals to seek help and share their experiences more openly than ever before.”

Innovative virtual approaches and a supportive environment

Sisak and Rickard find it rare to be part of an organization that not only prioritizes continuous innovation and adaptability but is also deeply committed  to accessibility.  This approach aligns closely with the broader mission of inclusivity and support for the community.

Homewood Health’s collaboration with and support of the Homewood Research Institute truly exemplifies its commitment to not only advancing the understanding of mental health, trauma, and substance use but also integrating those findings directly into patient care. This seamless integration allows for real-time application of research insights, enhancing the efficacy of treatments offered to patients at Homewood’s treatment facilities and to clients accessing its outpatient services.

Sisak emphasizes the role of flexibility and choice in accommodating the mental health needs of millennial women: “Providing a range of options, from remote work where possible to flexible hours, can make a significant difference in managing stress and preventing burnout. It's about offering choices that reflect the realities of their lives.”

Sisak and Rickard are both confident that the millennial cohort, especially millennial women, will continue to change the future of mental health and advocate for new modes of care.

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