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It’s Hard Being Iron Man: Young Adults & Their Quest to be Mental Health Superheroes

In the recent blockbuster movie Iron Man 3, Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), a self-described “Genius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist” who fights bad guys with the help of his flying suit of armor. Tony Stark comes off as cocky to everyone he meets, but beneath his brash exterior he conceals a lot of issues. Superhero-ing isn’t exactly a low-stress occupation, and in the new movie Tony starts to have panic attacks when it all gets to be too much for him.  Yeah, it’s tough to be Iron Man.


While I was watching the movie, it struck me that Iron Man’s plight isn’t too different from the average young adult today. Though Millennials may sometimes seem invincible in reality they’re just as vulnerable as everyone else when it comes to their mental health, if not more so.

Time Magazine recently dubbed young adults “The Most Stressed-Out Generation,” and a survey by Harris Interactive recently showed young adults between the ages 18 to 33 report higher levels of stress than any other age group. It’s not just stress… researchers have found that young adults are at the center of a “perfect storm” of mental health risks.  Without the necessary care, young adults are unfortunately are at a higher risk of engaging in destructive behaviors such as substance abuse and suicide.

Dan MentalHealth

Here are some other facts you may not know about young adults and mental health:

  • One in five young adults (18-25) experienced mental disorders in the last year
  • Suicide is the number three cause of death among young adults.
  • Young adults (18-25) binge drink, smoke, and use drugs more than groups both younger and older than them.

Without getting the care they need, Millennials would have a tough time getting even close to superhero status anytime soon.


But wait, what’s that up in the sky, bringing hope to young adults everywhere? No it’s not Iron Man, it’s the Affordable Care Act!

There are several new rules in the new law that should help improve mental health care for Millennials, including:

  • Starting next year, insurance companies won’t be able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing mental health conditions
  • Plans must cover 100% of the cost of important mental health services such as depression and substance abuse screenings
  • All health plans must cover mental health and substance abuse services
  • All health plans must pay for the same percentage of mental health services that they do for physical health services. This means that if an insurance plan pays for 80% of a visit to your doctor, it has to pay for 80 % of a visit to a psychiatrist too

Studies have shown that these changes are already starting to help Millennials get the care they need. Last year, more young people were seeking emergency mental health care and less young people were putting off needed mental health care. As more changes in the new health care law come into effect, more and more young people will be able to access the mental health services they need.

Maybe, just maybe, if young people can get the care that they need, they can save the day in the real America the same way Iron Man does in the movies.  They might even look just as awesome doing it.