Depression Resource Center

Last updated December 2016

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. Will depression improve without treatment?
  4. What should treatment consist of?
  5. Does psychotherapy work? How?
  6. 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

Bipolar Disorder In Children And Teens

Children and Grief

Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

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

Psychotherapies for Children and Adolescents

Teen Suicide

The Depressed Child

What is Psychotherapy For Children and Adolescents?

Where to Find Help For Your Child

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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

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 were designed to help individuals make informed decisions about childhood and adolescent depression treatment.

Rating Scales
Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale for Children (CES-DC)
Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomology (QIDS-A17-C)d
Patient Health Questionnaire Modified for Teens (PHQ-9)

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Research and Training

Scientific Programs from the AACAP 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 SSR-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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AACAP's books: Your Child and Your Adolescent offer easy-to-understand and comprehensive information on the emotional development and behavior of children from infancy through the teen years.

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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.

Bear in mind that because of the extensive training required, there is a nationwide shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists. To learn more about other mental health professionals and places where families can find help, read Where to Find Help For Your Child.

The National Institute of Mental Health Site on Depression in Children and Adolescents

Related Web Sites

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