Young Adults’ Experiences of Depression in the U.S.

Messages to other young adults with depression

When asked what messages they would give to other young people dealing with depression, the young adults we interviewed shared a range of insights and strategies that have worked for them. We summarize those messages here. Several other sections of this website provide additional, practical insight about coping with depression.

Accept and honor yourself 

Depression, as Nadina put it, can feel like having a dark “dragon” inside oneself. This dragon often spawns low self-esteem, shame or self-hatred. Self-acceptance was described by some as an essential step in taming the dragon. In Shayne’s words, it’s essential to “search for positive aspects” of yourself and realize that depression is “most definitely not your fault.” (See also ‘Depression and healing’.)
Give yourself a break

Several people compensated for their low self-esteem by filling their schedule with many activities and setting unrealistic expectations. But as Kate put it, “Depression makes you tired and it makes you need to recover longer than other people. So you need to give yourself a break” and work towards a slower, more reflective pace for life. (See more about being kinder to yourself in ‘Depression and strategies for everyday life’ and ‘Holistic and integrative approaches to depression’.)
Remember that things change over time

Many people we interviewed wanted to remind others that though depression may feel like a “dark shroud” at the moment, things will often change and begin to heal just with the passage of time.
Ask for help

Most of those we interviewed recognized at some point in their dealings with depression that they “can’t do this alone” or (as one participant put it) “I wasn’t going to be able to help myself unless someone was behind me.” Many people said reaching out was a crucial step in coping with depression; others said just talking about their feelings was a relief. Across the board, young adults wanted others in their situation to know they were not alone and encouraged them not to “suffer in silence.” As Meghan says, “I would have accomplished a lot more if I would have reached out sooner in a lot of different aspects of my life.
Avoid self-destructive behaviors

With the hindsight of experience and some hard-won wisdom, many young adults urged others to refrain (if they can) from self-destructive behaviors which make cycles of depression worse in the long run.
Control what you can control

While acknowledging that depression sometimes seemed to have controlled their lives, many people we interviewed felt that retaining a sense of control over depression was important for coping and healing. They urged others experiencing depression to hold onto a mix of hope and commitment – hope that change is possible, commitment to make that change more likely. As Sam put it, “I would absolutely want to give the message… [that] there is almost always the means with which a situation can be made better”.
Others emphasized making a commitment to coping with or healing depression. Elizabeth, for example, said “You have to put effort in to make it work, it’s not going to just happen by a magical potion which I have hoped for many times because it was too hard to work at and it was too painful to work at. But if you put in time and effort and energy and you really really address and confront who you are and what depression is all about, it’s easier to get through that way.” Marty wanted to convey this single, powerful message: “don’t let depression control you.”
See also ‘Depression and healing’, ‘Depression and strategies for everyday life’, ‘The positive sides of depression’, and ‘Having a purpose in life’.
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