April 2013

New Study Shows Not All Teens That Screen Positive for Depression Need Treatment

In response to the growing number of teen suicides, the U.S. Prevention Task Force recommends that family doctors routinely screen teenagers for depression. This step helps to identify teens experiencing depression that might otherwise go undetected. But a new research study published in Pediatrics suggests that individuals should react with caution to the results of the first screening.

According to the 2008 to 2010 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, an annual average of 1.4 million girls aged 12 to 17 (12%) experienced a major depressive episode in the past year—a rate nearly three times that of their male peers (4.5%). But not everyone who rates high on the screening test will stay depressed.

Dr. Laura Richardson, MD, of Seattle Children’s Research Institute led the study that followed more than a hundred teens, ages 13 to 17, that had a positive score on the depression screening test PHQ-9. “A lot of kids who have an initial positive screen for depression get better without active treatment,” notes Dr. Richardson. “Up to half of the adolescents in the study who screened positive for depression did not have a positive screen result when we tested them six weeks later.”

The study shows the important role that research plays in challenging the traditional medical mindset that all depressed people need a prescription. Parents should be advised that it is safe to hold back until they know for sure that the depression will not pass with time. “Watchful waiting” is the recommendation in most situations. “That might mean checking in every other week with your family doctor,” said Dr. Richardson. “Between these visits, parents should talk with the teenager about what is going on in their lives, help them problem solve any issues that are causing them distress, and most importantly encourage them to get sleep, good nutrition and stay active.” In her practice, Dr. Richardson encourages the parents to motivate from the sidelines, but the young person has important input about their treatment. The teen sets the goals and works with the doctor on a plan to achieve them.

What started as a research study has developed into a new way of treatment that requires the doctor to use listening skills instead of pharmaceutical drugs. “Primary care doctors and other clinicians need to ask the patient ‘What do you think would be helpful for you? And what are you interested in changing?’” Dr. Richardson says. “Then help the young person come up with a plan.” It might take more time at office visits but this method of treatment has been proven to help kids without involving medication.

Remote Roundup

WeSearchTogether connects you to studies you can do from anywhere—no travel required! Check out the latest remote-participation studies:

Understanding Factors Involved in Self-Injury Among LGBTQ Individuals
Researchers want to hear about the individual experiences of LGBTQ individuals, whether or not they involve self-injury, as a way of helping to understand this important health issue among LGBTQ populations. Participants will complete a survey online, and information gathered from the survey will help researchers understand how to best support LGBTQ individuals.

Facebook Study
How does logging on to a social networking site affect your mental health? Researchers want to learn about the relationship between Facebook use, emotions, and behaviors in people with and without depression. Study participants will participate in interviews and surveys, and will give researchers access to their Facebook walls. Participants can receive up to $80 for their time.

Feelings in the Family Study
Researchers want to know how family members get along when a parent experiences depressive feelings. This study is looking for mothers who are experiencing depressive feelings and who have at least one child between the ages of 6 and 12. Participants will answer questionnaires by mail and be interviewed over the phone. They’ll be paid $25 for their time.

Romantic Relationships and Bipolar Disorder
Do romantic partners help you stay well while managing bipolar disorder or do they sometimes get in the way? Whether you’re single, dating, or married, this study invites you to share your relationship stories through an online survey. Your stories will shape tools for fostering supportive romantic relationships for others who are living with bipolar disorder. 

A Study of Internet Education and Social Support for Mothers with a Mental Illness
This study seeks to test the effectiveness of a program designed to support mothers with serious mental illness. Moms enrolled will complete online surveys, and some will participate in an online parenting course and email support group. Other moms will participate in an online course about healthy lifestyles.

An Internet Survey of People with Bipolar Disorder who Practice Yoga
Does yoga keep you fit and focused or do you topple over in downward dog? This study is interested in understanding both positive and negative experiences with yoga amongst individuals with bipolar disorder.

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