Helping children with depression

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Schwartz, C., Waddell, C., Andres, C., Yung, D., Barican, J., & Gray-Grant, D. (2017). Helping children with depression. Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly, 11(4), 1–16. Vancouver, BC: Children’s Health Policy Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University.

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Background: For children who develop depression, timely and effective treatments are essential — to minimize both symptoms and distress, and to help them return to healthy lives.

Methods: We used systematic review methods to identify randomized control trials (RCTs) evaluating interventions for depressed children and youth. Applying our inclusion criteria to the 99 studies identified from our searches, we accepted 14 RCTs.

Results: Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) stood out as a robust treatment for childhood depression, whether delivered individually, in groups, or by computer. As well, the medications clomipramine, escitalopram and fluoxetine reduced symptoms but were also associated with significant side effects.  

Conclusions: Strong evidence suggests CBT is the best among the psychosocial interventions for depression and comes with no side effects. All children with depression should offered this intervention. Among the medications, the evidence is most robust for fluoxetine. Any young person prescribed an antidepressant needs regular monitoring for both benefits and side effects.

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