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Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Involved in Research Program That is Effective in Reducing Depression in Teens

Study findings will be published in latest Journal of American Medical Association edition

Researchers at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh took part in a national study to develop a treatment program for adolescent depression that has been effective in reducing depression and improving quality of life in teens and young adults.

Researchers developed and evaluated an adolescent depression treatment program that establishes a collaboration between primary care providers and mental health professionals to evaluate and treat the patient in the primary care setting. Patients in the program reported less severe depression and received more therapy than patients who received standard treatment. The study was conducted at five sites throughout the country, including Children's. Results are being published in the Jan. 19, 2005, edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association .

"This is a different approach to delivering mental health care in that it improves the identification of children who are depressed, and most importantly, engages them in their treatment. Their treatment is provided in a seamless, integrated primary care setting," said Pamela Murray, MD, chief of Adolescent Medicine at Children's and one of the study authors. "Our approach was about improving access and ultimately improving treatment. It lets all of the people involved in the decisions about a patient's mental health care, including the patient, communicate much more frequently and effectively."

Depression is a debilitating illness that affects 15 to 20 percent of young people by age 18, and can lead to suicide, a leading cause of death among youth age 15-24. Adolescent depression also is associated with school drop out, pregnancy, substance abuse and adult depression.

This type of collaborative care program had not been tested for the treatment of adolescent depression until this study. The study conducted between 1999 and 2003 and led by a research team at UCLA, included 418 primary care patients ages 13-21 with symptoms of depression. The treatment program included expert teams at each site who planned and implemented the treatment; care managers who supported primary care clinicians in evaluating and managing patients' depression; cognitive-behavior therapy for care managers; and collaboration between patients and clinicians.

Patients in the study who were offered the new treatment program were less likely to report severe depression than those who received standard treatment (31 percent vs. 42 percent). Patients in the new program also received more mental health care, particularly psychotherapy or counseling, compared with those who received standard treatment (32 percent vs. 21 percent).

In addition to Children's and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinics, participating organizations were the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute & Mattel Children's Hospital, RAND, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center Los Angeles, Venice Family Clinic, Ventura County Medical Center, Landon Pediatrics and Ventura County Behavioral Health. The study was supported by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, with additional supported provided by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016,

Last Update
February 19, 2008
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Last Update
February 19, 2008