The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that 3% of children experience and receive a diagnosis of depression. Most of those receiving treatment for the disorder report an improvement in symptoms after two months, underscoring the importance of implementing effective interventions. The AAP recommends a collaborative approach to creating a treatment plan.
Shared Decision-Making Framework
Practitioners and families should work together to sort through the various evidence-based depression treatment options available to children and teenagers. The following questions can support a shared decision-making framework:
- Are there multiple evidence-based treatment opportunities?
- Do laws, regulations, or policies limit or support those options?
- What family values and priorities can impact the treatment possibilities?
- Should financial stresses or cultural norms be a consideration?
- Have the child’s activities, comfort, rights, cognitive development, and personality been considered?
- Have the child and their family had time to process all the information and ask questions?
- Are there clear choices based on the specific case and resources?
The American Psychological Association recommends a program of cognitive behavior therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy tailored to adolescents to treat depression.
Consider the below list of therapies for depression and other mental health conditions in children and teenagers:
- Acceptance and commitment therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Family therapy
- Interpersonal therapy
- Mentalization therapy
- Parent/child interaction therapy
- Play therapy
Prescription medication is a popular option for those with severe depression when therapy alone is insufficient. The APA recommends fluoxetine as the initial option for medication. If fluoxetine proves ineffective, families and medical staff may discuss other antidepressants, including SSRIs or SNRIs. The FDA has issued warnings regarding suicidal thoughts in children and teens taking some antidepressants, so follow protocols when monitoring medicated patients.
Adolescents experiencing depression can benefit from an emphasis on developing healthy habits. The following interventions have shown effectiveness in reducing depression symptoms.
Certain foods have been linked to depression symptoms, so an evidence-based approach to intervention should include an evaluation of dietary habits. Here are some foods that have an impact on depression symptoms:
- Processed/fried foods, sugar, and alcohol affect the brain’s acetylcholine and have a correlation to memory problems, confusion, and issues with organization.
- Alcohol also impacts serotonin, which regulates mood and contributes to sadness, dissociation, and sleep issues.
- Coffee, tea, and caffeine impact dopamine, causing decreased motivation.
- Sugar, caffeine, and alcohol can cause irritability, anxiety, and self-criticism.
Eating a diet rich in eggs, wild fish, fruits, poultry, avocados, green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and vitamin C can help to encourage positive functions from these brain chemicals.
Physical activity has proven to improve depression symptoms. Experts advise exercising at an intensity high enough to impact the heart rate but not to the extent of energy depletion. It is optimal for teens to exercise in 30-minute increments three times a week for six weeks.
Experts recommend that parents learn the concepts behind therapy treatments to better work with their children and reinforce the skills that they are learning.
With tools such as the (CDI 2) Children’s Depression Inventory, Second Edition, families can receive effective diagnoses of depression in children and teens. Visit WPS online to learn more about how to assist adolescents dealing with depression.