The early stages of adulthood can have a variety of changes as young adults transition from adolescence into adults. They are seen as grown up and many of them leave home for the first time. And while these changes can be exciting for some, for other young adults they can be challenging. The new responsibilities and situations can feel overwhelming and result in mental health struggles, such as depression. And as they go off on their own, they may lose important connections to family and friends. Without these social connections, they may find themselves without the support they need to find help for their depression.
Depression and Young Adults
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest for at least two weeks or longer. It’s not just feeling sad, and it’s not something that a young adult will just “get over”. In 2017, an estimated 11 million U.S. adults aged 18 or older had at least one major depressive episode with severe impairment. With the extra pressure of college or going out into the workforce, young adults face challenges that can make them feel overwhelmed. If they are leaving for college, they might feel homesick. This time period is often the first time in their lives that they are in charge of their own living conditions, including how much they sleep, the types of food they eat, and how much they play video games or consume social media. They may be learning how to get along with roommates or how to navigate new social interactions. All of these things can trigger depression in young adults.
Common signs and symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
Staying Connected to Prevent Depression
While there are many factors that can contribute to depression such as diet, lifestyle, and genetics, a study from Massachusetts General Hospital has found that social connection is the strongest protective factor for depression. When children are young it is easy to make new friends with the closest person who wants to play, but young adults may struggle with leaving childhood friends behind and learning to make new connections. There is also the problem of the myth that transitioning into adulthood should be easy and that it’s just the next step in life.
The reality is that it is not an easy transition, and those who find it challenging may be embarrassed to reach out and tell family members that they are struggling. Without that social connection as an outlet to express their concerns, symptoms of depression can worsen in young adults. When speaking on prevention factors, Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD of the 2020 study reports, “Far and away the most prominent of these factors was frequency of confiding in others, but also visits with family and friends, all of which highlighted the important protective effect of social connection and social cohesion”. Young adults who feel isolated and disconnected from family and friends may find that their depression or anxiety symptoms are worsened. Without a supportive sounding board, negative thought patterns and unhealthy habits can go unchecked and become overwhelming.
Human beings are social by nature. People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, are more empathetic to others, more trusting and cooperative. Being socially connected can generate a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.
Finding Resources for Dealing with Depression
For young adults struggling with depression symptoms who don’t know where to turn, it is important to know that there are resources that can help them address their mental health. For young adults in college, many schools have mental health services available to their students. They can reach out to their advisor or student health center to learn what resources are available to them. This could include mental health screenings or even free counseling sessions. As discussed previously, entering college and living independently can be a common mental health trigger for some young adults and most colleges have services in place to best support their students.
For young adults not attending college, the internet may be a place to find some help. Of course, there is an endless amount of information on the internet, but this information can be narrowed down by searching reputable sources like the Center for Disease Control, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. These sources will have information about depression as well as articles on seeking out treatment. When seeking out information online it is crucial to research sources to make sure that you are reading up to date, clinically informed articles rather than personal blogs and opinions which many end up being more detrimental than helpful.
Online Counseling is also a popular option with young adults today. There are therapists that specialize in different disorders, and young adults can connect to a therapist through a quick text, video chat, or phone call. Sites like BetterHealth.com can match young adults with a therapist based on their mental health needs, location, and even gender.
Wilderness Therapy Connects
For some young adults, online therapy or college services are not the right fit. They may require a more individualized and experiential approach. These young adults may benefit from a wilderness therapy program like blueFire PulsaR. At blueFire PulsaR we help young adults step out of their comfort zone, improve their self-esteem, and help our clients build their confidence through self-success. Our program helps create positive changes and improvements through engagement and adventure. We have a supportive environment that encourages clients to push themselves physically and emotionally to create lasting changes.
At blueFire PulsaR, we believe that an important element of personal growth involves thinking beyond one’s self and considering the perspectives and worldview of others. That’s why one of the most integral activities within our program is service work.
Service work has several benefits including:
- Improving overall well being: Participating in volunteer-based community service helps young adults feel like they’re doing something good for the world. Many of our clients have struggled with feelings of ineptitude and inadequacy. Getting involved and helping others who may not be able to help themselves can make clients feel like they are making a difference. Community service work is known to reduce stress and decrease symptoms of depression.
- Boosting relationship skills: One of the challenges many of our clients face is the ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships. By going out into the community and interacting with individuals who have different perspectives and backgrounds, clients can work on gaining social skills and breaking out of their shell.
- Learning through experience: The varied backgrounds of the individuals clients work with during service work helps expand their worldview and learn about new cultures and ideas. In addition to the information gained from the people they meet, clients also gain new skills depending on what the service work entails.
- Helping prepare clients for future careers: While participating in service work, clients gain important skills they can translate to a job in the future. Additionally, the experience gained through service work is something clients can put on their resumes for potential employers to see.
Our comprehensive multi-faceted and clinical approach in the wilderness helps young adults and their parents navigate this journey in a positive direction. We believe that through a balance of self-assessment, insight-oriented therapy, outdoor living, adventure activities and academic focus these young adults will find their true selves.
blueFire PulsaR Can Help
At blueFire PulsaR, we believe that an important element of personal growth involves thinking beyond one’s self and considering the perspectives and worldview of others. That’s why one of the most integral activities within our program is service work. One of the challenges many of our clients face is the ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships. By going out into the community and interacting with individuals who have different perspectives and backgrounds, clients can work on gaining social skills and breaking out of their shell. Participating in volunteer-based community service helps young adults feel like they’re doing something good for the world. Many of our clients have struggled with feelings of ineptitude and inadequacy. Getting involved and helping others who may not be able to help themselves can make clients feel like they are making a difference. Community service work is known to reduce stress and decrease symptoms of depression. For more information please call (208) 565-2764.