Depression is a relatively common diagnosis in the mental health field. Depression is a common illness worldwide, with more than 264 million people affected. But young adults who are struggling with depression may feel confused, isolated, or even embarrassed. They may not want to talk about their struggle because they believe that they are failing. They may be dealing with feelings of shame around their mental health, which could cause them to shut down and feel unable to communicate, even with their loved ones. The scary part of depression is that your young adult may be struggling with these feelings but you may not be aware of it because they feel that cannot reach out. Parents often assume that mood swings are just a natural part of being a young adult so they may not recognize that those changes in mood are actually a sign of something much more serious.
Because we do not want our loved ones to suffer in silence, it is important to understand the different ways that depression may manifest and how you can find the best resources to help your young adult open up about their depression and work towards better mental health.
Warning Signs Of A Depressed Young Adult
We know that depression impacts everyone differently. Some young adults may experience emotional symptoms, while others may have depression manifest in physical symptoms. It is so much more than someone just feeling sad all the time. As a parent, you may feel helpless in knowing what to do when you feel like your child needs help. You may not know what to say, who to talk to, or where to go. Rest assured knowing you are not alone. No one just wakes up and knows how to handle these types of situations. If you suspect that you have a depressed young adult, you should never hesitate to address the situation immediately before things get worse. Depression is something with which individuals usually need help to cope with.
Here are some warning signs to look for that may indicate that your young adult is depressed:
– Sadness or hopelessness
– Irritability, anger, or hostility
– Tearfulness or frequent crying
– Withdrawal from friends and family
– Loss of interest in activities
– Decrease in school performance
– Changes in eating and sleeping habits
– Restlessness and agitation
– Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
– Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
– Fatigue or lack of energy
– Difficulty concentrating
– Unexplained aches and pains
– Thoughts of death or suicide
While there is no one cause of depression, issues such as peer pressure, academic expectations, and changing bodies can bring a lot of ups and downs for young adults. Without treatment, young adults may turn to unhealthy coping skills such as substance abuse, isolation, neglect of hygiene and self-care, or self-harm. If any or several of these signs are present in your young adult’s life, you should investigate further. It is crucial that you do not jump to conclusions or assume anything. This can make them feel targeted or like they are unvalidated in their feelings. Approach them calmly with love, concern, and support.
Reaching Out to Resources
Getting help can be the difficult part. You should let your young adult know that you are going to be with them every step of the way and that there are qualified professionals who are able and willing to help them overcome their depression. The first step may be to have them meet with a clinical professional to do a depression screening. When you talk with your young adult, you can remind them that a diagnosis does not define them. If they are diagnosed with depression, that does not mean that they are a just depressed person and will always feel that way. It can be scary to receive a diagnosis because they may fear that they will be treated differently, and people will only see the diagnosis instead of who they really are. Remind them that a diagnosis is simply a tool that they can use to figure out what is triggering their depression and how they can start to create a treatment plan with the help of a mental health professional.
Here are some tips to get started finding help for a depressed young adult:
Let them get involved. Your young adult should be a part of the treatment process. When choosing a specialist or pursuing treatment options, always get your teen’s input. If you want your teen to be motivated and engaged in their treatment, don’t ignore their preferences or make unilateral decisions. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries to get the right fit for your child. The amount of options for treatment can feel overwhelming, so do some research and narrow options before you present options to your young adult. And remember, a program you think will be perfect for them, may not be their first choice. When young adults are involved in their treatment plan, they become more invested in the outcome. Be flexible and willing to meet them halfway.
Weigh all options. Based on the severity/behaviors of your young adult, treatment options will vary. What may be necessary for them may not be necessary for someone else struggling with milder or more severe depression. Talk about your options with your young adult’s specialist. This connects back to the idea that everyone experiences depression differently. Some young adults may thrive in a program focused on group therapy and community, others will excel in a program with adventure therapy activities, and others will prefer a more focused, individualized approach. Reach out to programs that interest you and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out what their therapeutic approach is, as well as their mission statement. Learn about the type of environment your student will live in while enrolled in the program. A more cautious young adult will probably feel more comfortable in a home-like environment than a backcountry wilderness experience.
Think about the details. Will your young adult be taking time away from school during their time in treatment? Participating in a residential program that supports academics may be the best fit. Here, students can continue to work toward their educational goals and even earn college credits during their time in treatment. Maybe your young adult is more career-oriented. A treatment program that includes career counseling or even volunteering opportunities can help them gain work experience. Maybe your young adult would like to work on their social skills while also receiving treatment for depression. A residential program creates a sense of community with peers who understand their struggles. Practicing their communication skills in a supportive residential environment can help young adults feel more confident in expressing their emotions when they return back home. This means that if they find themselves experiencing symptoms of depression in the future, they have the skills they need to reach out for help when they need it.
Create a plan. Once you have decided on a treatment plan, talk through the details with your young adult. If you both have decided on a residential program, let them know when they can expect to enroll and how long the treatment process will be. Understanding what to expect can help young adults feel more comfortable as they start to deal with depression. It is completely natural for young adults to feel nervous when beginning treatment. If they have been hiding their depression symptoms, they may feel uncomfortable having to deal with their issues head-on. If they begin to question the plan or want to change their mind, remind them that you decided on the plan together. Remind them what they were looking forward to when they chose a treatment program. Help them feel heard, supported, and loved. And remember that having cold feet is natural, but following the plan is your best chance to deal with their depression symptoms.
Journey Home Young Adult Can Help
Journey Home Young Adult is a transitional living program for teens ages 18-23. This program addresses emotional, behavioral, and mental health disorders that teens may face. Common presenting problems include depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, body image issues, ADHD and other learning issues, academic struggles, and low self-esteem. Journey Home creates an environment conducive to healing where teens can learn healthy coping skills while becoming more well-equipped to launch into adulthood.
At Journey Home Young Adult, we focus on our Five Core Principles to guide our whole-person approach to growth and development. These provide the foundation for the rest of the work while at Journey Home Young Adult. The Five Core Principles include specific skills and goals for each student to strive toward, with bi-weekly treatment team meetings to assess progress and provide feedback. This comprehensive approach provides the structure, support, and mentoring for teens to move on from Journey Home Young Adult as empowered young women, ready to successfully launch into their lives. For more information please call us at 855-918-0032.