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


Age at interview: 20
Age at diagnosis: 18

Brief outline: Colin, age 20, had depression in middle school. He has attempted suicide and has OCD. Non-residential day therapy, medications, and practicing gratitude have helped put Colin on the healing path. He works and attends college.

Background: Colin works at the college he attends and lives with a roommate. He takes medications and sees a therapist. He is White.

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When young, Colin suddenly started to lose interest in things he used to enjoy. He quickly descended from being a happy kid to “feeling neutral” to “didn’t enjoy anything” to not finding “any reason or purpose in the day whatsoever”. Then he started having “consistent suicidal thoughts, for no apparent reason”. As a sophomore in high school, his family moved to a different part of the country and suicidal thoughts became more persistent. Two things stopped Colin from committing suicide in his junior year of high school. First, he felt guilty and wanted to protect his good family, especially his mother, from the devastating consequences of killing himself. Second, he finally made a friend in his new school, and looked forward to seeing her everyday. He says, “A study hall I had in high school … really turned my whole life around. It didn’t make it good, but it made it bearable”. Despite his depression, Colin was a straight-A student, which might have been associated with his obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
In his first semester of college his OCD and depression “came together to create this perfect storm”. He stopped going to class and as his grades slid, he felt worthless. Being good at academics was the positive part of his “self-definition” to balance his “depression and compulsions and obsessions”. After withdrawing from school Colin went home blaming his OCD. He saw a psychiatrist and was prescribed Prozac; he suddenly became “twice as suicidal”. He did not tell his parents about his depression and suicidal thoughts. His mother found an intensive day treatment program for OCD, where he was given medication and learned several skills. Upon returning to college, Colin began therapy and medication for depression as well. He resumed a very rigorous and accelerated course of study, was promoted to a supervisory position at work, made friends and found a girlfriend, who as Colin described was “definitely the best part of my life”. However, after that relationship broke up, Colin spiraled downward and carried out, unsuccessfully, a suicide attempt. He then entered an intensive non-residential treatment program for his depression, which he found very helpful.
Colin is now back in school, and has readjusted his excessive academics expectations, started practicing gratitude and has found a new girlfriend. Most importantly, he has become closer and more open with his parents, who revealed to him that depression and suicidal ideation run in the family. In turned out that his parents and Colin were protecting each other from the truth. The newfound openness has relieved Colin’s guilt and increased his understanding and respect for his parents.


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