Study shows benefits for teens who seek mental health treatment

Research has found that access to mental health care in teens reduces risk of clinical depression later in adolescence.

By Amy Wallace

Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Researchers from the University of Cambridge, England, have found that teenagers who have access to mental health services are less likely to become clinically depressed.

The study, conducted by the University of Cambridge's Department of Psychiatry, followed 1,238 14-year-old teens and their primary caregivers through age 17, assessing their mental state and behavior.


The teens who had access to mental health services had a greater decrease in depressive symptoms than those without access.

Roughly 11 percent or 126 teens had a diagnosed mental illness at the beginning of the study and 38 percent or 48 teens had contact with mental health services in the year prior to the study.

Results from the study showed that levels of depressive symptoms in teens who had access to mental health services after three years were the same as the 996 teens in the study without diagnosed mental health disorders.

By the age of 17, researchers found a seven times higher rate of teens reporting having clinical depression among those who had no access to mental health services than those who did.

"Mental illness can be a terrible burden on individuals, but our study shows clearly that if we intervene at an early stage, we can see potentially dramatic improvements in adolescents' symptoms of depression and reduce the risk that they go on to develop severe depressive illness," Sharon Neufeld, a research associate in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and first author of the study, said in a press release.


The study differed from previous research into how mental health services play a role in improving mental health in teens by accounting for the diagnosis of a mental health disorder.

"The emphasis going forward should be on early detection and intervention to help mentally-ill teens in schools, where there is now an evidence base for psychosocial intervention," Professor Ian Goodyer, lead author of the study, said in a press release. "We need to ensure, however, that there is a clear pathway for training and supervision of school-based psychological workers and strong connections to NHS child and adolescent mental health services for those teens who will need additional help."

The study was published in Lancet Psychiatry.

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