Depression Resource Center

Last updated June 2018

Depression Resource Center Image

Some children and adolescents experience symptoms that are beyond the range of normal sadness. Depression can be diagnosed when feelings of sadness or irritability persist and interfere with a child or adolescent's ability to function. About 5 percent of children and adolescents in the general population suffer from depression at any given point in time. Children who are under stress, who experience loss, or who have attentional, learning, conduct, or anxiety disorders are at a higher risk for depression. Depression also tends to run in families. The good news is that depression is a treatable illness.

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Frequently Asked Questions
  1. What causes depression in children?
  2. What are the signs and symptoms of depression?
  3. How can you tell if a child or adolescent is depressed? Can you screen for depression?
  4. Will depression improve without treatment?
  5. What should treatment consist of?
  6. Does psychotherapy work? How?
  7. Are medications safe? Do they increase risk of suicide?

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Facts for Families

AACAP's Facts for Families provide concise up-to-date information on issues that affect children, teenagers, and their families.

Depression in Children and Teens

Suicide in Children and Teens

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)

Bipolar Disorder In Children And Teens

Grief and Children

Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation

Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part I: How Medications Are Used

Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part II: Types of Medications

Psychiatric Medications for Children and Adolescents Part III: Questions to Ask

Psychotherapy for Children and Adolescents: Different Types

Stress Management and Teens

Teen Brain: Behavior, Problem Solving, and Decision Making

Where to Find Help For Your Child

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Video Clips

  • Ellie's Depression:
    This animated short video shows a teenager and is designed to be seen by teens. Produced by, it provides an excellent description of depression.

  • Why We Need to Talk About Depression:
    In this TED talk, Kevin Breel describes secretly struggling with severe depression throughout his teenage years. He wants to talk about his experience so others won't suffer as long.

  • Confessions of a Depressed Comic:
    Kevin Breel tells the story of the night he realized that people didn't recognize he was suffering so he had to let them know and ask for help.

  • David Brent:
    Dr. David Brent of the University of Pittsburgh discusses what psychotherapies are most effective in teenagers with depression, and how they work. These interventions focus on helping young people change their depressed outlook about the world around them or their relationships with others.

  • Neal Ryan:
    Dr. Neal Ryan of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, and a member of the Child Mind Institute's Scientific Research Council, discusses proven and effective psychotherapeutic interventions for adolescent depression.

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Clinical Resources

Practice Parameters
Considered resources for experts, mental health professional and physicians, AACAP's practice parameters were developed to guide clinical decision making. They show the best treatments and the range of treatment options available to families living with childhood and adolescent mental illness.

Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Depressive Disorders.

Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Suicidal Behavior

Other Clinical Resources

Parents Med Guide (2010)

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) developed The Use of Medication in Treating Childhood and Adolescent Depression: Information for Patients and Families. Both the ParentsMedGuide and PhysiciansMedGuide are designed to help individuals make informed decisions about childhood and adolescent depression treatment.

Rating Scales

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Research and Training

Scientific Programs from AACAP's Annual Meeting
Click here to search the Annual Meeting Sessions.

Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS)
A combination of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication appears to be the most effective treatment for adolescents with major depressive disorder - more than medication alone or psychotherapy alone, according to results from a major clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The initial study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2004. More

Treatment of SSRI-resistant Depression in Adolescents (TORDIA)
If an initial trial with an SSRI does not lead to improvement, a trial of a second SSRI has just as good a chance as leading to improvement as a trial of the SNRI venlafaxine, according to results from a different clinical trial funded by NIMH. The initial study was published in JAMA in 2008. More

The Treatment of Adolescent Suicide Attempters Study (TASA)
Depressed adolescents with prior suicide attempts can do well with a combination of an SSRI and a specific kind of CBT oriented toward suicide prevention. More

Suicide and SSRI Medications in Children and Adolescents: An Update
This article describes the history of the “Black Box” warning and subsequent research regarding the low risk of suicidal thoughts that may be associated with taking antidepressant medicine. More

Evidence Base Update of Psychosocial Treatments for Child and Adolescent Depression.
For depressed adolescents, both CBT and interpersonal psychotherapy are well-established interventions, with evidence of efficacy in multiple trials by independent investigative teams. Evidence for pre-pubertal children is notably weaker than for adolescent interventions. More

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Guides for Parents

Workbooks for Youth
Living with Mental Illness: Books, Stories, and Memoirs
AACAP's Consumer Issues Committee has developed a list of bibliotherapy resources for patients, families, and clinicians. These books can be rich educational tools and therapeutic resources.

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Getting Help

Depression Resource Center Image Getting help is the most important thing that parents can do for children and adolescents with depression. Parents should try to find a mental health professional who has advanced training and experience with evaluating and treating children, adolescents, and families. It is important to find a comfortable match between your child, your family, and the mental health professional.

A child and adolescent psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of thinking, feeling and behavior that affect children, adolescents, and their families. Child and adolescent psychiatrists have completed four years of medical school, at least three years of residency training in medicine, neurology, or general psychiatry with adults, and two years of additional training in psychiatric work with children, adolescents, and their families.

Click here to find a child and adolescent psychiatrist in your area.

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Related Websites

Additional Related Web Sites

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Mobile Apps

mADAP is a video-based mobile health app based on Johns Hopkins University’s Adolescent Depression Awareness Program (ADAP). It was developed specifically to provide information about depression to adolescents. The app, which contains information about how adolescents can get help for depression, is available for free on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

CBT Tools for Youth
CBT Tools is another app designed specifically for youth. It provides information about depression as well as templates with which users familiar with CBT can practice their CBT skills. Coping skills and safety plans and can recorded and easily accessed. This app costs $2.99 and is available at Apple’s App Store.

Mood Tools
Mood Tools is another app that provides information about depression, templates that can help people practice and use their CBT skills, as well as fields for entering preferred coping skills and safety plans. The app, which does not contain advertisements, is free and is available at both Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

CBT Diary
CBT Diary is still another app that makes it easy for mobile users to practice their CBT skills. This app is free but contains advertisements. It is available on Google Play.

Developed by the California Mental Health Authority, this app allows users to easily access contact information for the three individuals who are best positioned to support them in a crisis, as well easily review and update their personal warning signs and coping strategies. The app is free and is available at both Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

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