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Approximately 11 percent of adolescents will develop a depressive disorder by the time they turn 18, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Because mental disorders and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand, early detection and treatment of mental health issues could reduce the number of teens abusing drugs and alcohol. A recent study found that when pediatricians are properly trained to screen for and diagnose depression in teens, level of care increases as well.

About the Study

The study, which is slated to be published in an upcoming issue of Academic Pediatrics, involved 31 pediatric primary care providers and around 1,200 patients. Researchers arranged for training for the providers that included screening, assessment and treatment for teenage depression. Physicians were also given practice sessions with actors portraying teen patients. Patient surveys were used to evaluate both short and long-term follow-up after the training.

Researchers discovered that the additional training gave physicians the confidence and knowledge to screen for depression more consistently, even 4-6 months after the initial training took place. At long-term follow-up appointments at 18 and 24 months, nearly three-fourths of the patients said they were screened by their provider. As many as 95 percent reported that had completed a self-assessment prior to their appointment.

“Adolescent depression is woefully under-recognized and undertreated,” study author Elise Fallucco, M.D., stated. “Our simple intervention empowered providers to promote early identification and treatment of adolescent depression by equipping them with the tools and knowledge needed to deliver this care.”

About Teen Depression

The Mayo Clinic describes teen depression as a “serious medical problem” that requires long-term treatment. Signs of teen depression may look slightly different that adult depression symptoms. Some of those signs might include:

  • Frustration, irritability and anger
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Loss of interest in school and activities
  • Sensitivity to criticism and rejection
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Thoughts or ideation of suicide
  • Feelings of sadness, worthlessness or guilt
  • Changes to sleep and eating patterns
  • Use of drugs or alcohol in an attempt to “self-medicate” symptoms

Seeking Help

When substance abuse occurs in a teen that has depression, treatment becomes much more complex. In addition to treating the abuse or addiction, treatment must be given for the mental disorder at the same time. If the depression is not addressed in the early stages, the chance for long-lasting sobriety is much slimmer.

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we have the professional team needed to treat dual diagnosis, or a coinciding diagnosis of both addiction and mental illness. We will work with you and your teen to deal not just with the addiction, but the underlying issues that led to the addiction. To learn more about our treatment programs, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.