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Time June 04, 2009

By Claudian Wallis

Depression is one of the dark demons of adolescence. Up to 1 in 12 American teenagers is affected, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and three times as many will experience depression at some point by age 18. Studies show that at least 20% of teenagers with clinical depression will go on to develop chronic cases that will haunt them throughout adulthood. That is, if they reach adulthood. Suicide is a significant risk for depressed adolescents and the third leading cause of deaths among U.S. teenagers….The researchers will also examine what can be done for the adolescents whose parents are in the grips of depression: this subset, which was 45% of the participants, did not benefit significantly from the cognitive behavioral program.

“It’s awfully hard to change your thinking habits if a parent is depressed and everything is so chaotic around you,” observes Clarke. Future studies, says Garber, will look at whether treating the parent for depression makes a difference…

Because it focuses on prevention, the JAMA study “really moves the field forward,” says child psychologist Anne Marie Albano, who directs the Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Columbia University Medical Center.

Albano says that recent surveys showing rising rates of mental illness in college students have sounded the alarm about the need to intervene earlier to prevent the cascade of social, academic, economic and emotional woes that befall teens who slip into depression. “This study is telling us that if you get kids early in the cycle of depression when they have symptoms and are on the path, you can give them skills that manage those symptoms.”

Personal note; As a long time guardian ad-Litem, I am sensitive to the cascading problems children in dysfunctional homes must live with.

It is obvious to me that children of really troubled parents cannot escape the problems of their parents.  It is a benefit to all of us to have healthy children in our communities.

Support at risk children, start a KARA group in your community.

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