Researchers from RTI International, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to investigate assessments of the helpfulness of counseling (having seen or talked to a professional about their depression) and/or prescription medication by adolescents who experienced a past-year major depressive episode.
Of the 9,100 adolescents (ages 12 to 17) with a major depressive episode (8.1%) in the sample, 2,000 (22%) reported receiving counseling but not taking depression medication, 1,300 (13%) reported receiving counseling and taking depression medication, 200 (3%) reported taking depression medication but not receiving counseling, and 5,500 (62%) reported receiving no counseling or depression medication in the past year.
The authors found that around 32% of adolescents who received only counseling reported that counseling was extremely helpful or helped a lot, 25% reported that it helped somewhat, and 44% reported that counseling was not at all helpful or helped only a little. Adolescents who took a prescribed medication and received counseling had somewhat higher assessments of helpfulness, with 47% reporting their medication was extremely helpful or helped a lot, 22% reporting that their prescription medication helped some, and 31% reported medication was not at all helpful or helped only a little.
“Although there are no standards by which to make normative judgments about these percentages, we were encouraged that more than half of the adolescents felt that counseling or medication was extremely helpful, helped a lot, or helped some,” the authors wrote. “A greater concern ... continues to be that 62% of adolescents with a major depressive episode received no treatment at all.”
For more on the treatment of adolescents with depression, see the Psychiatric News article “Most Young Girls With Depression Fail to Receive Treatment.”