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