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Depression literacy considered beneficial for adolescents

Literacy programs may help reduce the severity of depressive episodes in teenagers.

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Photo: Nick Youngson

In the U.S., depression is an all-too-common issue on the rise among teenagers. According to a new study, however, researchers have found a way to tackle the issue of depressive episodes in adolescents: the Adolescent Depression Awareness Program (ADAP).

Researchers at Johns Hopkins developed a depression literacy program, which aimed at arming adolescents with the proper knowledge to help recognize and reduce the severity of future depressive episodes.

In the study, as published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers analyzed data of 6,679 students from over 50 U.S. schools, including in Pennslyvania, Michigan, and Maryland.

The schools were divided with some initiating the program, while the rest avoided it serving as a control group for comparison.

Participants completed the Adolescent Depression Knowledge questionnaire and the Reported and Intended Behavior Scale before, during and after the program. The questionnaire measured depression literacy and mental health stigma. A minimum score of 80 demonstrated literacy of the condition in the questionnaire.

Additionally, 65 teachers were given an online survey to report on whether the students had reached out for help with battling their depressive symptoms.

The findings conclude over 54 percent of participants who took the ADAP program were depression-literate within just four months, compared to 36 percent who did not take it.

“ADAP resulted in significantly higher levels of depression literacy among participating students than did waitlist controls, after adjusting for pretest assessment depression literacy,” the study found.

In regards to the survey completed by teachers, nearly 50 percent reported that at least one student contacted them for support, either for themselves or a peer.

Overall, the ADAP program is considered beneficial for adolescents who may be at highest risk of experiencing depression.

“ADAP is an effective public health intervention for improving depression literacy among students,” researchers concluded.

Given the results, Holly Wilcox, one of the lead researchers, hopes to expand its program’s effectiveness to middle school students in the near future.

“We are hoping to adapt this program for middle school students, as the earlier we can reach those at risk, the earlier we can intervene and link them to services,” said Wilcox.

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