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Depressed Teens See Barriers to Getting Mental Health Care

Fear of stigma and other barriers result in their not getting needed counseling or medical treatment

THURSDAY, May 28 (HealthDay News) -- Adolescents with depression are prone to perceive multiple barriers to getting mental health care, and consequently often do not get any kind of regular treatment, according to a study in the June issue of Medical Care.

Lisa S. Meredith, Ph.D., of RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., and colleagues recruited a group of 368 teenagers (aged 13 to 17), from seven primary care practices. The group included 184 teenagers diagnosed with depression and 184 without depression, as well as 338 parents. Researchers conducted telephone interviews at baseline and six months, which included questions to elicit views on perceived barriers to mental health care.

The researchers found that the teenagers with depression were more likely to perceive barriers to care than the teenagers who were not depressed, while parents were less likely to perceive barriers. Among the depressed teenagers, the leading perceived barriers were family stigma (45.1 percent), conflicting responsibilities (44.6 percent), access issues (39.1 percent) and cost (34.8 percent). Overall, 55 percent of depressed teenagers received counseling but only 26 percent attended at least four counseling sessions. The authors further note that only 17 percent of teens with depression received an antidepressant medication, and only 7 percent were on regular antidepressant therapy.

"Given the wide endorsement of barriers by teens (including stigma), it may be especially important for primary care clinicians to discuss treatment reluctance and treatment preferences with teens themselves, and ultimately with both the teen and parent," the authors write.

The study was supported by an unrestricted grant from Pfizer Inc. to the RAND Corporation.

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