Connection is vital to human survival and mental health. However, a quick news scan makes it clear that our collective ability to foster connection is facing unprecedented challenges. And few groups have felt these effects more than Generation Z.  

At Discord, creating community is our calling, and we take the responsibility of understanding the mental health of our users seriously. For so many people aged 13+ around the world, Discord is the place to hang out and connect authentically. As a communications platform that does not generate revenue through ads or benefit from attention-grabbing algorithmic news feeds, we’ve created something special for our users: a truly customizable experience that allows them to bond over shared interests and find community. And because of that, we feel a deep responsibility to make our platform as welcoming, inclusive, and helpful as possible. 

We know that young people are dealing with real challenges: In the U.S., nearly half of adolescents will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives. There is a new world of friendship being nurtured online, and Discord is using its place as a leader in that space to unpack the benefits, implications, and challenges Gen Z faces in their quest for mental well-being in their daily lives.  

To better understand the context in which our users are living and to evaluate our role in contributing to solving the youth mental health crisis, we went straight to the source. 

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we recently surveyed 1,000 members of Gen Z adults aged 18 to 25 and 1,000 parents of Gen Zers to get their perspectives on the issue. Here’s what we found: 

  • Stress and anxiety are the No.1 emotions felt by today’s Gen Zers, outweighing feelings of love, happiness, and hope. 
  • Almost half (43%) rate their mental and emotional health as poor, with just as many (44%) citing uncertainty about the future. 
  • Over half (55%) say their mental and emotional health has taken a turn for the worse in the past few years. 
  • There is broad agreement among the scientific community that social media has the potential to both benefit and harm children and adolescents. Our survey found that although some say participation on social media and community platforms contributes to poor mental health, more report that online communications platforms, including social media, play a positive role in their life, providing a welcome source of entertainment, a nice distraction from life’s responsibilities, and a place to feel connected.

Stressed, anxious, hopeless, and unsure, Gen Z feels the weight of the world on their shoulders. Coupled with feelings of isolation and loneliness, the way forward is unclear to them, whether that’s who to ask for help, where to seek it, or how to afford it. Addressing these issues is equally complicated, with several stats surfacing problematic gaps and assumptions that impede progress:   

  • Just 30% of parents say their Gen Zer’s emotional/mental health has taken a turn for the worse over the past several years, while 55% of Gen Z say this.
  • The vast majority of Gen Z believe in the power and wisdom of seeking mental health support when needed; but at the same time, 35% still consider suffering from mental health problems as a sign of weakness.  
  • Further, 40% feel that today’s attention to mental health is a trend that will likely subside in the coming years, contributing to larger feelings of hopelessness.  

Click below to read the full white paper, “MIND MATTERS: Bridging Gaps to Support Gen Z’s Mental Health.”  

From this research, we’ve learned that we have a lot of work to do to stay true to our mission. Gen Z has had a tough go of it over the last couple of years, and it is no surprise that feelings of hopelessness, isolation, loneliness, and anxiety are so widely shared. At Discord, we are committing to finding ways to better support users facing mental health obstacles–here’s a glimpse of how: 

Cultivating a Supportive Platform 

Now more than ever, conversations once reserved for face-to-face interactions are happening online, necessitating robust mental health resources in these spaces. Platforms like Discord can provide the safety and anonymity that some seek when discussing topics like identity, sexuality, and mental health. Gen Z deserves such spaces, and Discord is working to ensure they feel supported on our platform by doing the following:  

Forming intentional and impactful partnerships 

  • Discord maintains a partnership with Crisis Text Line to enable users to get the help they need for themselves or empower others to get help, as quickly as possible. Discord chose Crisis Text Line as a partner because they are available 24/7, and allow teens and adolescents to anonymously seek support in a way that can be easier and more approachable. 
  • We’re also a proud supporter of the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital, whose work helps ground our approach to teen safety and belonging in the latest scientific research and best practices. 
  • And we’re empowering teens and families to build belonging online through our partnership with the National PTA to help families and educators discuss ways to foster positive relationships and build belonging in our digital world.

Crafting and refining supportive policies 

  • Finding a community that is navigating similar challenges can be incredibly helpful for healing. That said, we know that online communications platforms have a critical role to play to ensure digital spaces don’t attempt to normalize or promote hurtful behaviors or encourage other users to engage in acts of self-harm. We recently expanded our Self Harm Encouragement and Promotion Policy to ensure this content is addressed on Discord. 
  • At the company level, Discord will soon appoint a Mental Health Policy Manager to oversee all future efforts, partnerships, and policies to bolster users’ mental health on and off the platform. 

Joining the conversation 

  • Parents, educators, policymakers, and industry alike must rally to rectify the plight young people currently face, and collaboration is demanded of all of us. Collective, cross-sector research would help reveal the whole of the problem, establishing the path forward for better-informed solution-making. In participating in these efforts, we can help reshape negative stereotypes and stigmas that continue to surround mental health, rewriting norms and eliminating obstacles to learning about and securing care.

Discord is deeply committed to this work. With these learnings in mind, we will continue driving thoughtful conversations through targeted action, collaborations, and partnerships with organizations such as Crisis Text Line, the Digital Wellness Lab, and the National PTA. 

But for us, acknowledging the extent of the issue is just the beginning. At Discord, we’ll move forward, committed to helping to bridge the gap between Gen Z and the mental health resources they deserve by meeting them where they already are.

If you or someone you know is facing a mental health crisis, seek support today by texting DISCORD to 741741, or learn more about Crisis Text Line here

To learn more about the study’s findings, view the report here