*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on PsychCentral.
Young people with mental health problems who have contact with mental health services are significantly less likely to suffer from clinical depression later in their adolescence, according to new research.
The study, published in Lancet Psychiatry, found that 14-year-olds who had contact with mental health services had a greater decrease in depressive symptoms than those with similar difficulties, but who had no contact, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.
By the age of 17, the odds of reporting clinical depression were more than seven times higher in individuals without contact than in those who did access mental health services, the study found.
Researchers from the university’s Department of Psychiatry recruited 1,238 14-year-olds and their primary caregivers from secondary schools in Cambridgeshire, and followed them up at the age of 17. Their mental state and behavior was assessed by trained researchers, while the teenagers self-reported their depressive symptoms.
Of the participants, 126 (11 percent) had a current mental illness at the start of the study. Only 48 (38 percent) had contact with mental health services in the year prior to being recruited for the study.
The researchers discovered that contact with mental health services appeared to be of such value that, after three years, the levels of depressive symptoms of those teens were similar to those of 996 unaffected individuals.
“Mental illness can be a terrible burden on individuals, but our study shows clearly that if we intervene at an early stage, we can see potentially dramatic improvements in adolescents’ symptoms of depression and reduce the risk that they go on to develop severe depressive illness,” said Dr. Sharon Neufeld, first author of the study and a research associate at the university.
“The emphasis going forward should be on early detection and intervention to help mentally-ill teens in schools, where there is now an evidence base for psychosocial intervention,” said Professor Ian Goodyer, who led the study. “We need to ensure, however, that there is a clear pathway for training and supervision of school-based psychological workers and strong connections to NHS child and adolescent mental health services for those teens who will need additional help."