Stigma Keeps Teens From Depression Treatment

WEDNESDAY May 27, 2009 -- Concern about their family's reaction to their depression is a major reason why many teens don't seek treatment, new research suggests.

In the study, which included 368 teens and one parent or guardian of each teen, half of the teens had been diagnosed with depression. The teens and the adults were asked to rate possible barriers to depression treatment, including cost of care, concerns over perceptions of others, difficulties making appointments with a doctor or therapist, constraints due to time and other responsibilities, not wanting family members to know about the depression (asked of teens only), the unavailability of good care and simply not desiring treatment.

The researchers found that while the adult guardians were less likely to report barriers to depression treatment, among teens, worries about stigma and the reactions of their family members were listed as major issues.

Teens who perceived treatment barriers were less likely to undergo therapy or take medications. The study also found that depressed teens were much more likely to perceive barriers to treatment than non-depressed teens.

The findings appear in the June issue of the journal Medical Care.

"With teenagers, treatment decisions greatly involve other parties, especially parents. For instance, teenagers often rely on adults for transportation. Doctors need a sense not just of what the teen thinks or what the parents thinks, but what both think," study lead author Lisa Meredith, a researcher at RAND Corporation, said in a news release.

The doctor's ability to address all the perceived barriers "affects the teenager's own ability to acknowledge their depression and do something about it," she explained.

"Once primary care doctors understand the perceived barriers that exist on both sides, they are better able to work with a family to get care that feels right for a particular teenager," Meredith said.

Treatment is important because teens with untreated depression are more likely to have social and school problems, abuse drugs and alcohol, become parents at a young age, and go on to experience adult depression and possibly suicide.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about teens and depression.

Posted: May 2009


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