The experience of young people with depression: A qualitative study

T.V. McCann, D.I. Lubman, E. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Accessible summary

Young people struggle to come to terms with depression.

They may withdraw from friends, fearful of stigma and to preserve friendships in the longer term, but withdrawing from friends can have paradoxical consequences.

They may respond in self-protective, harmful and sometimes life-threatening ways to their depression.

People who develop depression experience a maelstrom of emotions as they struggle to understand what is happening to them. While the experience has been comparatively well documented in older adults, much less is known about the depression experience and responses of young people. In this study, we aimed to explore the experience of young people diagnosed with depression. Twenty-six young people were recruited from a youth mental health service. A qualitative interpretative design was used, incorporating semi-structured, audio-recorded interviews. Results provided four overlapping themes, reflecting the young people's difficulties in coming to terms with, and responding in self-protective, harmful and at times life-threatening ways to their depression: (1) struggling to make sense of their situation; (2) spiralling down; (3) withdrawing; and (4) contemplating self-harm or suicide. Study conclusions are that young people faced considerable difficulties coming to terms with, and responding to, depression. Improving young people's understanding of depression and its treatment, reducing community stigma and providing accessible and youth-focused services remain important targets for intervention. It is also important to improve mental health literacy in the community to increase awareness of depression and how mental health professionals, including nurses, respond effectively to the young person.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-340
JournalJournal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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