Millions of Depressed Youngsters

Most teens who suffer major depression don't receive treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Depression among teens is an epidemic. Nearly 2 million adolescents in the U.S. suffered major depression in 2009. And most never got help.

A new national report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that just over 8 percent of America's teenagers had at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in 2009. But only about a third of these youngsters aged 12-17 received treatment for their depression.

"Hundreds of thousands of depressed teens in America don't get help."

“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.”

A major depressive episode (MDE) lasts at least two weeks. Sufferers feel deeply sad and lose interest in most things that are usually satisfying for them.

The study found the following trends:

  • Teens suffering MDEs were three times more likely to have a substance abuse problem than teens who did not experience MDEs
  • Girls were twice as likely to have MDEs as boys
  • Incidence of MDEs rose with age - increasing from 3.6 percent 12-year-olds to 10.4 percent of teens aged 15

Among the nearly 700,000 adolescents who suffered from an MDE and received treatment:

  • More than half saw a physician or other health professional and weren't prescribed medication
  • The next largest group met with a medical doctor or other heath professional and were also prescribed medication
  • The smallest group receiving treatment used prescription medication only

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and May 3, 2011 was National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

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.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 4, 2011
Last Updated:
May 10, 2011