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April 19, 2024 12:38 pm

Local News

Stepping Up to Help ‘Gen Z’ Navigate Mental Health Needs in NC

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By Shanteya Hudson, Public News Service

Research shows that members of “Generation Z” – now in their teens to mid-20s – are almost twice as likely to struggle with mental health issues as other generations. They are also more likely to talk about it. This increased awareness of mental health may ultimately lead to an increased need for support when it comes to school, healthcare and jobs.

Rey Saldaña, president and CEO of Communities In Schools, a nonprofit said in North Carolina, they provide wraparound services, like mentoring and counseling, to help students overcome nonacademic challenges and increase their chances of graduating.

“We’re trying to catch students well ahead of their disengaging and disconnecting,” Saldaña explained. “And it’s oftentimes just the fact that we have those red flags when we’re working with students on our caseload to identify them early, to ensure that we keep them on track and they stay on track. And that’s important during the beginning of the school year. “

Saldaña added the organization has received funding this month to increase their services to 1,000 more low-income schools, including some in North Carolina.

Dr. Donald Tavakoli, national medical director for behavioral health with UnitedHealthcare, agrees that wraparound support and services are more important than ever as healthcare needs shift for Gen Z. Much of the increased mental distress their generation is experiencing can be attributed to COVID-19, he said.

“The COVID pandemic certainly had an impact, a disruption on social experiences and also, you know, health experiences for many people, from a physical health side,” he explained. “So, we think that’s somewhat of a unique aspect of the impact on that age group.”

This is also a population that will be comfortable getting some of their care needs met online. A report on Gen Z trends by Oliver Wyman and The News Movement describes Gen Z as more tech-savvy, more willing to try alternative forms of care, and expecting a holistic approach to their healthcare.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.