As many as one in five U.S. teenagers experience an episode of major depression by the time they turn 18. Sadly, depression among teens often goes unrecognized, increasing the risk of suicide, substance abuse, and many other problems. Even among those who are diagnosed, few receive proper treatment. But now there’s a ray of hope from a new NIH-funded study that’s found success using a team approach that pairs depressed teens and their parents with a counselor .
Faced with a shortage of psychiatrists who specialize in child mental health, a multidisciplinary team from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, University of Washington School of Medicine, and Group Health in Seattle decided to use a strategy called “collaborative care” to treat depressed teenagers. There are more than 70 clinical trials showing that team-based care approaches work well for adults with depression, but there were only two such previous studies in teens—and results were mixed.
To carry out their study, pediatrician Laura Richardson and her colleagues identified 101 teens who screened positive for major depression at nine primary care clinics in the Group Health system in Washington state. (Depressed teens who also had substance abuse problems or who had attempted or planned suicide were not included in this study group). The teens were then randomly assigned to either usual care or collaborative care.
In the usual approach, Group Health sent a letter to the depressed teen and his or her parents that described the teen’s condition and encouraged the teen to use the Group Health system to get help in the form of psychotherapy or anti-depressant medication.
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