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


Age at interview: 18
Age at diagnosis: 18

Brief outline: Meghan (age 18) had depression symptoms in high school but did not seek help. Depression worsened as she tried to adjust to college and deal with an abusive roommate. She saw a campus counselor briefly, and was prescribed medication by her family doctor.

Background: Meghan is a college student and has a job on campus. She is Caucasian.

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Until her junior year of high school, Meghan was a happy, adventurous, “outgoing and bubbly” person. Then suddenly she “became very irritable and had a negative outlook on life”. She was “slowly gaining weight” and had acne. She felt helpless, “I wasn’t myself mentally; I wasn’t myself physically. I just didn’t even recognize myself”. It took her a long time to “reach out for help from friends or family or like, professional people”. 

Growing up in a small town, Meghan thought that once she went off to the big University, “things would go back to normal”. But college did not provide the fresh start she had anticipated. Instead of getting in shape and projecting a great attitude, “things got harder as the semester progressed”. She would see people laughing, and think, “This is college. Don’t they realize that this is the worst time of your life”? She knew no one and was struggling academically. Her “toxic” roommate took advantage of her in a very cruel way. Then half way through the semester Meghan moved across campus and got a wonderful roommate. “Instantly it was such a relief”, but then she thought “it was too late for me academically”.  

Finally Meghan realized that depression “had just gotten so much worse [after] two years of pushing it aside and pushing it aside…and nothing was just going to go away”. Reaching out “was the best decision” she ever made. Meghan’s mother validated her feelings and said, “It’s okay to reach out for help”. By the time Meghan went for her preliminary counseling session at campus health services, she knew she had depression. She did not want counseling. She wanted medication. Rather than to go through the campus health service’s long process, saw her family doctor who prescribed an antidepressant. Very soon after she started taking the medicine she saw benefits. “I have just really transformed and I just feel like a whole other person and I really don’t think that counseling could have done that. She ended up with decent grades in her first semester, and has since joined a choir on campus where she has made friends and has a real sense of belonging. Meghan says, “I can look back on the past two and a half years, a little longer than that and realize that I made it through and I can be proud of where I am now”. 

Meghan notes, “I have heard so many stories of people going through what I went through. When, I mean it’s very common”. But if she hadn’t opened up, her family doctor would not have known she had depression. She also says, medication should be easier to get, especially in college. 


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