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Contributed by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute

About 20 percent of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood. Studies show most of the depressive episodes happen between the ages of 12 and 17.

Many just don't get the help they need, but now a new report finds pediatricians can effectively treat depression in kids with the right strategy.

"If we design systems to really reach out to teens and support teens, we can deliver care and we can improve outcomes," said Dr. Laura Richardson with the Seattle Children's Hospital.

Researchers screened teenagers for depression at nine health care practices. Fifty teens were placed in an intervention group and were assigned care managers within their primary care practice. These managers followed the teens closely, offering education, treatment and support throughout the 12 month study.

The teens received either psychotherapy, anti-depressant medication or both. In the Journal of the American Medical Association report, study authors saw quite an in improvement in the intervention group.

"Really talking to teens to understand what they need and addressing it from their perspective makes a big difference in having them engage in care and improve," Richardson said.

The other 51 teens received usual care and were encouraged to seek mental health services provided through their health plans.

"Eighty-six percent of the intervention youth received psychotherapy or medications or both compared to only 27 percent in the usual care group," Richardson said.

By the end of the study, 50 percent of teens working with a care manager reported having no depressive symptoms compared to 21 percent in the usual care group.

Teenagers who worked with care managers also said they were highly satisfied with the treatment they received.

"It is feasible to offer treatment for depression in primary care and that when we do so, kids will engage in treatment and their depressive symptoms will get better," Richardson said.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on the Seattle Children’s Research Institute's (SCRI) website and is reposted with permission. The SCRI is one of the top five pediatric research centers in the nation, which brings together some of the best minds in pediatric research to set new standards of pediatric care and find new cures for childhood diseases.

The accompanying video is produced by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and is reposted with permission.

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