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7th Annual Todd Ouida Lecture - Pediatric Depression: Strategies for Improving

Joan Asarnow, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences
Director, Youth Stress & Mood Program
University of California, Los Angeles

Is there such a condition as pediatric depression? How can we improve treatment in pediatric depression? What are some of the causes of pediatric depression? Joan Asarnow, Ph.D. introduces the current challenges in treating depression in youth and proposes opportunities for improved treatments. The fact that children do suffer from depressive disorders is now well known; in fact pediatric depression is a prevalent condition. Studies have shown an increased frequency of depression in females and that pediatric depression lasts longer, is more complicated, more recurrent, and tends to persist into adulthood. Moreover, depression does not seem to happen alone. Anxiety tends to be comorbid with depression, either preceding or antedating it. It is surprising to note that approximately 80-90% of children with depression have another disorder. One of the findings is that children with abuse histories tend to be more inclined to endure depressive episodes. Treatments for pediatric depression include psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, or a combination of both. However, most, if not all, of the current treatments leave a substantial proportion of patients with residual depression. Dr. Asarnow’s study, Youth Partners in Care: An effectiveness Trial of Quality Improvement for Adolescent Depression in Primary Care, explores treatments for depression through primary care doctors. By implementing screening during primary care visits, the patient is offered the window of opportunity to detect mental health problems in order to correctly treat a disorder. Dr. Asarnow concludes that there is quality improvement in detection and treatment in youth who have mental disorders found by primary care screening procedures.


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