Wading through a pit of mud: Adolescents' experience of depression
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Depression is one of the most debilitating experiences to affect both individuals and society in New Zealand. When it is experienced during the formative years of adolescence, its consequences can be devastating. To date, the knowledge of this experience has been inadequate, information being gathered by methods that do not portray the perspectives of young people who have experienced depression. This thesis addresses this inadequacy by presenting an interpretation of young people's experience of clinical depression. The research process involved my extensive interviewing of 11 young people who met 'The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Of Psychiatric Disorder Number IV' (DSM-IV, 1994) criteria for a Major Depressive Episode (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1994, p.317). Their perspectives were sought from their position of recovering from depression. I also interviewed 8 of their caregivers. Both sets of perspectives provided insight into the devastation that young people and their families experience as a result of depression. By exploring the participants' subjective worlds and interpreting this data from a symbolic-interactionist perspective, three key themes emerged. These were their experiences of powerlessness, of feeling stigmatised, and of an altered sense of self. It was also clear from the analysis that relationships were the key to both positive and negative ways in which the participants experienced depression. The relationships that were important to recovery were those with caregivers, peers, health professionals, and the researcher. Consequently I suggest that enhancing all of the interpersonal relationships identified as important by young people with depression will be integral to healing. These relationships can be redefined as "therapeutic relationships".