Mental health issues like depression and anxiety have risen during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent study released by CMI Media Group. 

Mentions of depression have increased since the start of the pandemic based on the agency’s social listing, with 7,800 mentions in April 2022, up from 5,800 mentions in May 2021. 

Additionally, CMI found that 40% of Gen Z/Millennials and 38% of Gen X have experienced depression, which has historically been an issue for younger generations, though recent studies indicate that the age of those affected is increasing.

Facing an uncertain future during a period of vital adult development may be an explanation for the rise in depression. Based on social media discussions, CMI identified a common factor for individuals talking about depression: people discussing family and parenting. 

Still, while more people across different age groups are dealing with depression and anxiety, how they choose to treat these issues remains mixed. According to the study, 55% of the Millennials and Gen Zers seek medical help to treat depression while 75% of older generations get treatment. 

The cost of accessing mental health services is another problem facing younger generations. Due to gaps in insurance or high deductible health plans, Millennials and Gen Zers can struggle to put their mental health first. So what can marketers do to ease this issue? 

“The growing need for antidepressants and other treatment options is imperative for pharmaceutical companies to take note of,” said Emilie Penny, Associate Director of CMI, in the report. “Educational opportunity lies in the advertising landscape itself with media consumption habits varying drastically among generations.

In an interview with MM+M, Fabian Henault, VP of Market Research at CMI, suggested healthcare organizations better utilize resources such as crisis and mental health hotlines. 

“In terms of the actual treatments, recognize that there are tons of advocacy and support groups for patients in terms of getting medication,” Henault said. 

There are also patient-focused pharmaceutical companies that can assist with costs based on the individual needs of the consumer, he added.

Rick Johnson, VP of Intelligence Solutions, acknowledged that some mental health services are difficult to find, but are still accessible and should be promoted among consumers. 

“Patients may not understand that their health insurance has a behavioral health component to it, where they can get counseling. If they are employed or a student in university, there are often behavioral health services that are outside of their health insurance that they still have access to” Johnson said.

Johnson stated that employers, universities and others need to make sure that they are highlighting those services to enrollees, adding that it shouldn’t be kept a secret.

There is an evident paradox of social media usage for younger generations. Excessive time spent on social media can contribute to depression, yet it seems to be the main way pharmaceutical and healthcare marketers can reach this audience. 

Johnson agreed that this is an issue these marketers face, so he highlighted the use of the most simple form of marketing: mouth to mouth campaigns. 

“Younger generations tend to be a little more skeptical [about treatment marketed towards them], so when someone they know and trust says, ‘have you heard about this or have you thought of this method?,’ it can go a long way.”

The costs and stigma associated with mental health treatments on the road to recovery are real obstacles facing younger patients. Both Henault and Johnson pushed for marketers to work with pharma brands and providers to alleviate the burden faced by consumers seeking necessary behavioral health services.