Preventing Depression in Young AdultsJune 28, 2021
Did you know that depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. in individuals ages 15-44? Depression is categorized by persistent depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. It is estimated that major depressive disorder, otherwise known as clinical depression, affects more than 16.1 million adults in the U.S., and far too often this disorder goes undiagnosed or untreated. The number of young adults experiencing depression, in particular, is on the rise, which is why it is so important for our society to find ways to prevent and help young adults recover from depression.
Risks and Red Flags
The first step in learning how to prevent depression is learning what puts you at a higher risk for developing depression, and what some of the signs and symptoms, or “red flags” of depression in yourself or others may be. “Risks” for depression may include genetic, environmental, or behavioral factors that increase the likelihood that you will develop or experience depression. Here are some common risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing depression in young adults:
- Family history of depression
- Substance abuse
- Frequent use of electronics or social media
- History of trauma
- Low self-esteem
- Poor nutrition
While the causes of depression may vary from person to person, it is important not only to know the common risk factors but also to be aware of the common signs and symptoms that someone you know may be struggling with depression. Here are some red flags or indicators of depression to look for in young adults:
- Frequent crying spells or feelings of sadness
- Irritable or annoyed mood
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
- An outburst of anger, even over small issues
- Frequent thoughts of death, dying, or suicide
- Tiredness or loss of energy
- Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little)
- Agitation or restlessness
- Social isolation
- Poor performance in school or work
- A decline in personal hygiene or appearance
- Self-harm (may include cutting, burning, or bruising themselves)
Preventing and Caring for Depression
So now that we’ve discussed the signs and risk factors of depression in young adults, it is important to discuss the ways depression may be prevented, and mechanisms for self-care that may help those struggling with depression. Taking small steps to make changes to your lifestyle and routine can make a big impact. There is no sure way to prevent depression, however, here are some methods that have been proven to be helpful for depression.
- Find healthy coping mechanisms (for stress or sadness)
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule & try to get 8 hours of sleep per night (avoid oversleeping or not enough sleep)
- Eat well and be mindful of nutrition
- Exercise regularly (the CDC recommends engaging in physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week for adults)
- Spend time with peers who engage in positive behaviors (this may include being a member of school clubs, volunteering, or sports teams)
- Talk to a trusted family member or professional
Tips for College Students
College can be both an exciting and challenging time for many young adults. However, the mental health statistics of college students is rather alarming. Roughly 1 in 4 young adults (ages 18-24) have been diagnosed with mental illness. Going off to college is a major adjustment and many students struggle with feeling isolated and stressed during college. Additionally, the pressure of college can exacerbate depression and some other forms of mental illness. For these reasons, it is important to be mindful of your own mental health and provide support for yourself as much as you can. The following are some tips and tricks that may help you to support or prevent mental health challenges in college:
- Build a support system. Joining clubs, teams, or even an active work environment can be a great way to meet people and make you feel more connected to your campus community.
- Take care of yourself. It may sound simple but taking proper care of yourself can be more complex than it seems. Be sure to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet, participate in regular physical activity, be mindful of your sleeping habits, avoid excessive drinking or drug use, and take breaks to relax and have fun.
- Utilize mental health services. The majority of college campuses offer counseling and other mental health services to students. Additionally, many campuses have peer-run mental health organizations that may offer support, or you may become a member of. Take advantage of these services and take charge of your mental health.
- Explore or engage in hobbies. College can be a great time to explore new hobbies. Many college campuses offer recreational activities for students to engage in and it can be a great way to meet new people. So, take that yoga class, join a group hike, go to weekly book club meetings, or whatever else your school offers that piques your interest.
Managing Post-College Depression
Now that we’ve talked about how to manage depression in college, many young adults also face what is called “post-college” depression. Post-college depression is actually very common for many young adults as you are transitioning to a new phase in your adult life. Many young adults experience feelings of loneliness and stress after leaving their old peer groups behind and transitioning into full-time jobs. If you or someone you know is struggling with post-college depression these tips and tricks may help:
- Build healthy habits. Again, it may sound obvious, but taking care of your mental health starts with your physical health. Eat nutritious foods, sleep adequately, and get regular exercise. Building healthy habits can not only help with depression, but it can help improve self-esteem as well.
- Maintain old connections and make new connections. Friendships can shift with time and you may find it difficult to maintain old friendships from college especially if you have moved away. However, making an effort to keep up with old friends even virtually can help ease some of this discomfort. Also, it is important to work on making new relationships with colleagues or people in your area.
- Set new goals. Take time to set and write out some new goals you have for yourself. This could be an advancement in your career or education, or something as simple as joining the local gym.
- Engage in hobbies or meaningful activities. After college, career may be the first thing on your mind, however it is important to still take time for yourself and participate in activities that you enjoy and are meaningful to you. This could include volunteering, activism, reading, or starting a garden.
Trails Momentum Can Help
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression in their young adult life Trails Momentum may be able to offer the help you need. Trails Momentum is a wilderness therapy program for young adults ages 18-25. Our program uses adventure-based therapy as a way to help young adults improve self-regulation and overall functioning ability. Here students are able to gain a greater sense of self-awareness and learn healthy coping skills. Trails Momentum offers individualized treatment plans designed to be tailored to your individual needs. We can help you today!
For more information, please contact us at 877-296-8711