Research by Oxford University found that one third of young adults suffer from depression because they were bullied as children and teenagers. The research suggests that even if the bullying occurred years ago, the impact lingers throughout the late teens and young adult years.
In addition to this, AXA PPP healthcare found that 27% of 18-24 year olds report that they feel lonely most of the time, with 24% saying they have no one to talk to (see study here). On the surface, it does seem alarming that more young people report feeling lonely, depressed, or anxious. However, one counsellor at the University of Central Florida notes that more people are coming forward and seeking help for these issues, which is why the figure is higher (see article here). Young adults are often thought to be living life to the full, so why are more of us feeling lonely and isolated?
It’s important to understand what’s going on within this age bracket. 18-24 year olds are likely to be students, entering the workplace for the first time, moving out of the family home, or graduating from university. These are all important milestones for young adults, but they are also big changes, so they can be very unsettling. It’s only natural to feel down or isolated if you move away from friends and family. We usually adapt to these changes after a few months of settling in, but some continue to struggle with it throughout these years and develop depression as a result.
Students experience similar problems with depression and loneliness, but anxiety is now the most common mental health problem within this group. A study by the Centre for Collegiate Mental Health found that more than 48% of students have sought help and counselling mental health. There are a few reasons why this is the case, such as added pressure of good academic performance and being away from their comfort zone of home. Mental health issues are rarely spoken about within the student community because on the surface, students are seen to have healthy social lives and enjoy new surroundings. What we see in university prospectuses is often not the reality however, with research and figures certainly testament to this.
How To Help
Unfortunately, young adults may not have a support network or know who to turn to in this situation, so it’s important that we look out for friends and family if we think they’re struggling. There are a few things you can do to help if you’re worried about someone you know.
Let them know you’re there if they need you. They might not be comfortable with approaching you with their problems, or they may be worried that no one will listen. Reaching out to someone is often all it takes for them to open up about how they’re feeling. Offer to spend some time with them or introduce them to people in your social circle – this is particularly useful if they’ve moved away from home and are yet to forge new friendships.
Pull together some useful resources. If they’re armed with contact details for counsellors or self-help websites, they’re more likely to act on the information they have instead of seeking it out for themselves. If you’re worried that they are suffering from depression, it’s crucial that they see a trained professional as soon as possible.
Put yourself in their shoes. Maybe you felt the same in your early twenties? Share your experiences with them – this is helpful as it will remind them that they’re not alone, and other people have gone through what they’re feeling. Although they may seem fine on the surface, they may be hiding their real feelings.
Remind them that help is possible. For students, their performance may suffer for a semester or two, but with the right treatment, they will get better. This also applies to young adults in general – turbulent times will pass, but they don’t need to wait it out. Instead, seeing a doctor or counsellor as soon as possible is one of the best things they can do to make sure they’re diagnosed early.