Preventing childhood depression

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Schwartz, C., Waddell, C., Andres, C., Yung, D., Barican, J., & Gray-Grant, D. (2017). Preventing childhood depression. Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly, 11(3), 1–12. Vancouver, BC: Children’s Health Policy Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University.

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Background: There is substantial evidence that many cases of childhood depression can be prevented with effective interventions.

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 81 studies identified from our searches, we accepted seven RCTs.

Results: Our review found a strong body of evidence indicating that Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is effective in preventing childhood depression. We identified six CBT preventive interventions that proved successful in rigorous evaluations. They included the programs Coping with Stress, Family Group CBT, Icelandic Prevention, Taking Action, and Teen Talk and the book Feeling Good. Interpersonal Therapy also proved successful.

Conclusions: CBT should be the first choice for preventing childhood depression. Notably, all the successful prevention programs were delivered in groups, making it possible to reach many more youth than with individual interventions. As well, among the effective CBT programs with documented success in preventing depression in adolescents, the CBT-based Coping with Stress stood out, with three rigorous RCTs showing the program prevents depression.

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