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


Age at interview: 28
Age at diagnosis: 11

Brief outline: Marty has struggled with depression, anxiety, and other issues since childhood. He has spent time in juvenile homes, prison, and hospitals. Medication, religion, his fiancé, pride in work and the prospect of fatherhood are all very helpful for his depression.

Background: Marty lives with his girlfriend in temporary housing. He is currently looking for work and a good place to live in preparation for the birth of his first child. He is Caucasian.

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Marty’s depression began when he was seven or eight. He had trouble getting out of bed for school and then difficulty dealing with the stress of school while he was there. His mother had substance abuse problems of her own, and was not able to help Marty deal with his emerging issues at that time. Before too long Marty discovered that his mother’s prescription Xanax pills made him feel much better, like he was “meant to be taking them” because it helped him “interact and speak with people… and accomplish things”. After repeating cycles of drug use, missing school, and conflict with his parents, truancy officers intervened and Marty went to a group home.

Through his adolescence and into young adulthood, Marty lived sometimes on his own and at other times in institutional settings like the group home, psychiatric hospitals, and prison. The group home and even prison provided access to some treatment for neurotic depression, anxiety and other mental health issues that Marty found very valuable. Group therapy was hard to get used to, but over time he “started talking and fitting in and relating with this one or relating with that one and it was pretty helpful.” Some individual therapy was valuable too. Medications he was given while living in institutions always helped, but he did not have insurance or money for pills when he was released and so repeatedly returned to self-medicating with alcohol and drugs. He also attempted suicide on several occasions. 

For Marty, having a structured everyday life is crucial for maintaining good mental health, because “being stuck in your own head and free time is very bad”. On the other hand, “being told what to do”, having a clear purpose, and being able to demonstrate leadership skills to put himself “over that hurdle” – as he has done working at various restaurants – is very good. Having a fiancé and expecting his first child is providing a clear sense of direction for getting over the hurdle of finding a stable place to live and a steady job.  

Religion has often pulled Marty “out of the hole of depression and anxiety”. He puts his “belief in God and started listening to God”, who has assisted him in countless ways. He advises other young adults to find a safe place to be, “somewhere that makes you happy. And if you say well nothing makes me happy and nothing, nowhere makes me happy, then that’s bullcrap, because you haven’t found it yet, you know. And it’s out there, if you can just find it, you’ll be ok.” Also don’t let depression control you and “seek help if you need it”, even getting a “second opinion” if need be. 


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