There are few things worse than a depressed child – but a depressed child loaded up on meds he doesn't need is one of them.
Two of the biggest problems when it comes to teens and depression is that many are overtreated – while many others are not treated at all.
Both approaches are wrong, and both can lead to lifelong problems and even the saddest ending of all – suicide.
New research shows that it doesn't take much to get a child back on the right track – it just needs to take place early.
A study in the June issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association shows how well teens respond to simple non-drug therapies, such as cognitive behavioral instruction.
In this study, researchers followed teens with a history of depression or symptoms that fell just short of a depression diagnosis. These kids also had at least one parent who had suffered from depression.
Half of the kids were sent to weekly cognitive behavioral instruction sessions for 8 weeks, and monthly sessions for six months. The other half were allowed to seek whatever treatments they wanted.
The kids who went through the 90-minute sessions were less likely to suffer from an episode of depression. In fact, just 21.4 percent of kids in the group sessions experienced depression during a nine-month follow-up, versus 32.7 percent in the control group.
These group sessions won't help everyone, but even then drugs are not always the answer. The real answer lies in your child's body.
Sometimes, the answer is simple – just not in the place most doctors look. I've found that many depressed patients just need additional tryptophan, vitamin B6 and/or vitamin B12.
The single most important thing to understand is that your child's depression should not go untreated.
Just as you shouldn't rush to put your teenager on expensive prescription drugs, you shouldn't ignore the symptoms and hope they'll just go away, either.
Chances are, they won't.
Remember, depressed teens often go on to become depressed adults. And depressed adults are at risk for a number of problems, including drug and alcohol abuse and suicide.
The good news is, it doesn't have to be that way, especially if you treat it early.