What I see in various generations’ approach to mental health

My baby boomer dad's experience with therapy, and my millennial thoughts

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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Parkinson’s is an impactful disease that comes with a lot of challenges. As such, it probably isn’t a surprise to most that many Parkinson’s patients struggle with mental health at some point. In fact, up to 40% of Parkinson’s patients experience anxiety, according to the National Council on Aging. And the Parkinson’s Foundation notes that more than 50% of Parkinson’s patients deal with depression.

While scrolling through my phone one night, I saw a TikTok video about fitness and the ways that members of each generation approach it. Gen Z, the video said, claims to work out for mental well-being, while millennials want to look strong. As a millennial, I laughed — because in some cases I think this broad conclusion might be true.

Then the claims made me think about how each generation handles mental health. While I think it can be dangerous to make blanket statements about any particular generation, I do notice trends in each of them, based on people I know.

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Changing attitudes on therapy

Many baby boomers in my life have historically been skeptical or resistant to therapy. This observation is backed up by a recent survey that asked about therapy attendance; only about 8% of baby boomers were willing to see a therapist. Comparatively, about 45% of millennials in that survey were willing to seek therapy. And Gen Z, a Forbes column says, is seen as the generation with the most awareness about mental health.

According to the World Health Organization, there’s been a sharp increase in those dealing with some type of mental health issue since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Failing to recognize those conditions and the need for care can result in worsening symptoms, perpetuating the problem. That’s one reason it’s important to create more awareness about mental health.

In the case of my baby boomer dad, he’s been skeptical of therapy. But he’s had a few chapters in his life (such as when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s) that caused him to seek help to address a particular problem. After he talked about it for a few sessions, however, he stopped attending therapy and moved on.

I’ve been in weekly therapy for about six years, which is a tremendous financial and life commitment, and I know that such care isn’t something everyone can access. But I also believe that working with the right therapist can enhance anyone’s life. Exploration plays a key part in evolution. And I think that building better futures depends on evaluating and treating our mental health.

Talk therapy can provide clients with a safe space to vocalize their troubles. Extended talk therapy can also dismember unhelpful thought patterns and beliefs about the world, contributing to a healthier outlook.

While getting therapy after his Parkinson’s diagnosis didn’t change my dad’s physical condition, it might’ve helped him self-soothe or manage his anxiety in a more impactful way. Perhaps if he’d continued to attend sessions, he would’ve seen more benefits. But ultimately, Dad was willing to take a step that most people in his generation don’t. And I think that’s pretty cool.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Mike avatar


Mary Beth,
The reality is that Parkinson’s is a brain disorder….brain damage. It is really hard for me to admit that. Depression and anxiety are a portion of our brain challenges. Therapy is a good way to work through it. I applaud your willingness to engage in therapy. Keep working on it. I have also sought some help with benefits. Blessings, Mike


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