It’s no secret that mental health was the collateral damage of the pandemic, with illness, loss and financial hardship weighing heavily on billions around the world. Those in Generation Z have been greatly impacted, since they are more likely to be in insecure work and disproportionately affected by nationwide lockdowns and restrictions at a time when many are only just entering adulthood.
This is taking a toll on mental health. Around 40% of people aged 18-29 surveyed by the U.S. Census Bureau reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in October, higher than any other adult age group.
TIME spoke to three young changemakers who have taken a creative approach to addressing mental health amid the crisis.
Business graduate Surendra Shenoy Basti decided to launch a a tele-medicine startup that aims to reduce the barriers to getting mental health support. “It was a startup that was inspired and created for the pandemic itself and for the world moving forward”, he says of his company, Rekindle. “That’s what excites me about the future: there are a lot more people who are passionate about not just going after profits, not just going after influence, but also social good”.
Chicago-native Trisha Prabhu drew on her experience of being bullied as a teenager, to develop innovative ways to support mental wellbeing. With her social venture ReThink, she aims to help cultivate the next generation of responsible digital citizens. “We can actually foster and build a digital culture that’s more inclusive, that’s more respectful, instead of trying to put a bandaid on a problem after it happens”.
Cultivating a sense of belonging has become particularly important during the pandemic. More than half of Gen Z adults surveyed by Points of Light, Hart Research and Carol Cone On Purpose say that the pandemic has made them want to be more involved in their communities.
“March 2020 changed everybody’s lives, most definitely”, says Mississippi college student Bobby Hudson III. “But I never imagined how it would … influence me to get involved a little bit more in my community.”
Hudson established the North Gulfport Advocacy Coalition, a grassroots group dedicated to educating the public on topics such as politics, social advocacy and voter awareness. He believes in reinvesting the knowledge he gained at college back into his community. “One thing I always tell people: it’s important that we go back into our communities and make the changes that we want to see”.
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