Helping Young Adults with Depression in 7 Steps

Helping Young Adults with Depression

14.8 million American adults live with depression, including many young adults. If you’re the parent of a young adult with depression and you’re worried, there are a few things you can do to help.

In this article, you will learn more about helping young adults with depression.

Helping Young Adults with Depression

First of all, mental illness is more common than you may think. An estimated 1 in every 5 adults has some form of mental illness.

There are a few things you can do to help young adults with depression. Before you get started, it’s best to learn as much as you can about depression, including everything from symptoms, causes, and depression treatment. This will help you avoid making the mistake of offering insensitive advice.

Taking the time to learn more about depression will help you understand its effects, which can be helpful as you provide support.

To help you get started, we’ve gathered a few tips for you to consider as you offer your support.

Here are 7 steps for helping young adults with depression.

  1. Use active listening skills
  2. Validate Feelings
  3. Ask the Miracle Question
  4. Offer suggestions sparingly
  5. Don’t Take Inaction Personally
  6. Be Mindful of Scapegoating
  7. Provide resources

Let’s take a closer look.

1. Use Active Listening Skills

The best thing that we can do for a loved one in a state of depression is to just listen.

As much as we may believe that we understand the problem, part of being an adult is gaining the ability to work out problems for ourselves. Having a parent who offers a listening ear – without judgment or a rush to provide input – can provide depressed adult children the space necessary to sort things out.

Active listening doesn’t come naturally for most of us, which is why it is referred to as a skill. We have to learn to refrain from responding from our gut and refrain from pointing out solutions which seem so obvious to those on the outside of the depression. A person who feels as though shared perspectives are fully understood by another is more likely to leave the conversation with a sense of relief. If your loved one is indicating that conversations with you are not helpful, try employing more active listening.

2. Validate Feelings

Depression may have roots in the way that we are cognitively viewing the world, but the major effects of it are on our emotions. Depressed people often feel a lack of joy, motivation, and hope. The absence of these positive emotions can cloud the ability to see a practical way out of a problem.

Bombarding a person who is in a negative emotional state with advice can add to the frustration and agony that he or she is feeling, as the mind is not in a state to properly apply any of it. Try taking the edge off of the negative feelings by simply acknowledging that they are very real, and very present.

We don’t have to agree with the expressed feelings and perspectives, but simply acknowledging them goes a long way.

3. Ask the Miracle Question

Being in a state of depression can feel like being trapped in dark woods. All of the trees look the same, the stars are not visible through the clouds,  and there is no pathway to be found. A depressed person can become panicked by circling around the same area, again and again, without seeing any other options.

One way of assisting a person in this state is through asking the Miracle Question. This is a technique useful for helping a person to view life beyond the current predicament. Try asking your loved one what would be different, if he or she woke up tomorrow and all was well. This brief, mental, escape from the oppressive fog of depression can provide a starting point for going in a new direction.

4. Offer Suggestions Sparingly

The first thing that most parents want to do, when confronted with a problem, is to find the solution. Not having a plan of action for fixing something amiss is an uncomfortable state of being, and looking for answers is the fastest way to shake that discomfort off. Bear in mind that, when it is your adult child’s problem, you are seeking to fix it can be coming from selfish motives. It could be your own discomfort at their predicament that you are seeking to alleviate.

This type of the wrong motive is counterproductive to the type of understanding that a depressed person can benefit from. If you find that your adult child is repeatedly dismissing your suggestions for getting out of the depression, perform a self-check on what it is that is compelling you to continue offering them. Above all, avoid using the word ‘should’ when offering advice. Using this directive can come off as judgmental and oppressive to a depressed person.

5. Don’t Take Inaction Personally

There is a high chance that, even when all steps are properly taken, our loved one will continue to do what he or she had been doing, beforehand.

Our empathetic listening, our wise interventions, and our sound advice will continue to go unheeded. This can be frustrating to watch, and parents can begin to feel helpless to assist. If you notice that your adult child’s lack of change is starting to take a toll on your own quality of life, take a step back. Remind yourself that this is your child’s journey and that your best support comes from your continued ability to be mentally and emotionally healthy yourself. As much as you love them, maintaining proper boundaries toward your own self-care will produce the best, eventual, outcome.

6. Be Mindful of Scapegoating

There is a popular phrase which asserts that ‘we always hurt the ones we love.’ While this certainly isn’t the case within healthy relationships, a depressed person isn’t in a healthy state of mind. When we are hurting, it is most often those whom we know will not reject us who are privy to the ugliest moments. If you notice that your depressed child’s ire is turned toward you, take comfort in knowing that this is because your child knows – deep down –  that you will not reject him or her, no matter what.

7. Provide Resources

Young adults may not be ready to accept help when you offer it, which is okay. You can still introduce helpful resources, including reading material, websites, and phone numbers. This will allow someone the opportunity to learn more when they’re ready.

Here are a few to help you get started:

Once you introduce a resource, let the young adult consider it on their own. Pushing resources on someone will likely cause the person to avoid it altogether.


What is depression?

Depression is a serious mental illness that negatively affects the thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

How common is depression?

322 million people live with some form of depression (source)

What are the symptoms of depression?

The persistent feeling of sadness, changes in sleep, energy, and self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts.


Now that you know more about helping young adults with depression, you can move forward with the confidence that you CAN help. As mentioned, take time to learn as much as you can about depression, symptoms, and causes before you offer support. 

If you’re looking for a treatment center for young adults, learn more about the Paradigm Young Adult Program. We offer a wide range of mental health treatment for young adults experiencing mental illnesses, including anxiety, addiction, and depression.

Contact Paradigm here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *