A new national report released in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month and Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day indicates that 8.1 percent of America’s adolescents aged 12 to 17 (2 million youth) experienced at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year. The report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also shows that only 34.7 percent of these adolescents suffering from major depressive episodes received treatment during this period.
An MDE is defined as a period of two weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, including problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image.
"Depression among adolescents is a serious public health problem that is all too often overlooked and the consequences can be devastating," said SAMHSA Administrator, Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. "If depression among young people is identified and treated early we can turn a life around and reduce the impact of mental illness and substance abuse on America’s communities."
One of the study’s most notable findings was that adolescents who had suffered from an MDE in the past year were more than three times as likely as those without a past year MDE to have had a substance use disorder in the past year (18.9 percent versus 6 percent).
The study also found significant differences in the rates of past year MDE experiences among subgroups of adolescents. For example, adolescent females were twice as likely as their male counterparts to have experienced a past year MDE (11.7 percent versus 4.7 percent). Rates of past year MDE experience also rose as adolescents grew older with rates increasing from 3.6 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 10.4 percent of adolescents aged 15.
Among the nearly 700,000 adolescents who suffered from MDE and received treatment, more than half (58.5 percent) saw or met with a medical doctor or other health professional only -- without being prescribed medication. The next largest segment of adolescents receiving treatment -- 34.7 percent -- met with a medical doctor or other heath professional and were also prescribed medication. The remaining 6.7 percent receiving treatment used prescription medication only.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and May 3 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Awareness Day is part of SAMHSA’s strategic initiative on public awareness and support, and is a collaboration of more than 100 national organizations and Federal agencies and programs working to provide greater access to community-based mental health services and supports for children and youth with serious mental health conditions and their families. Across the country, more than 1,000 communities will celebrate this annual observance with local events; social media campaigns; dance, music, and visual activities with children to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health.
Major Depressive Episode and Treatment among Adolescents: 2009 is drawn from SAMHSA’s 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which collected data from a representative sample of 22,626 adolescents throughout the United States.
SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.