Screening for depression through the Internet is feasible and is acceptable to large groups of adolescents. Furthermore, the Major Depression Inventory (MDI) and the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression scale for Children (pdf, small) (CES-D) are reliable and valid instruments that can be used for this screening.
By the age of 18 about one in every four adolescents has had at least one
depressive episode, and most adults with recurrent depression have their initial depressive episodes as teenagers
Teen depression or depression during adolescence can be hard to discover. There is even a website about depression for children and parents: KidsHealth. It is a doctor-approved website with health information about children from before birth through adolescence. KidsHealth provides families with accurate, up-to-date, and jargon-free health information they can use.
Treatments for depression in adolescents are available. Usually treatment is started with cognitive therapy. The combination with antidepressants is also very effective in treating depressed adolescents.
Despite the availability of effective treatments, however, undertreatment is considerable in depressed adolescents because:
- adolescents tend to consider help-seeking as a sign of weakness
- they do not consider their problems to be mental health problems that can be treated
- they prefer to solve their problems on their own
- both parents and health professionals consider mental health problems a normal part of adolescence
The Internet may be an acceptable medium for adolescents to receive help.
In this research two screening instruments for depression in adolescents the Center forEpidemiological Studies-depression scale(pdf, small)(CES-D); and the major depression inventory, MDI) were validated for the use through the Internet.
What was done in this research?
A total of 1,392 adolescents, recruited through high schools and the
Internet, filled in the online questionnaires. Of these, 243 (17%) were interviewed with the MINI diagnostic interview to assess the presence of a mood disorder.
So not only were these screening instruments used they were also validated against the the International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI). Not the best diagnostic instrument but a good one.
From the two screening instruments the MDI has the advantage that it is considerably shorter than the CES-D (12 compared to 20 items), and requires less time input from the adolescents.
Several recent studies have shown that Internet-based interventions are as effective in the treatment of depression as more traditional types of psychological treatment, although most of these studies have been conducted with adults. But Cognitive Therapy through Internet might be an acceptable treatment and medium for depressed adolescents.
Cuijpers, P., Boluijt, P., Straten, A. (2008). Screening of depression in adolescents through the Internet. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 17(1), 32-38. DOI: 10.1007/s00787-007-0631-2