June 1, 2009 / 5:48 PM / 11 years ago

Depressed teens worry about family reaction: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Some teenagers with depression may not want treatment because they worry about the stigma attached to the disorder, a new study suggests.

A youth holds his hand to his face in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Newscom/Handout

In interviews with 368 teenagers with and without depression, researchers found that for those with the disorder, social stigma and worry over their families’ reaction were some of the main perceived barriers to getting therapy.

What’s more, the study found, teenagers who reported those obstacles were less likely than others to have started counseling or drug therapy six months later.

The findings suggest that when a teenager is found to be depressed, doctors should talk with them about any reluctance toward treatment, the researchers report in the journal Medical Care.

And that discussion, the investigators add, should also involve the parents — who, in this study, often did not see the same treatment barriers that their children did.

In interviews, parents were less likely to cite any barriers to their children getting treatment, and when they did, they tended to point to practical concerns, like costs and difficulty getting their child to therapy.

“With teenagers, treatment decisions greatly involve other parties, especially parents,” lead researcher Dr. Lisa Meredith, a scientist at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California, noted in a written statement.

“For instance,” she said, “teenagers often rely on adults for transportation. Doctors need a sense not just of what the teen thinks or what the parent thinks, but what both think.”

Talking with both teens and parents about any reluctance toward treatment may help make kids more comfortable with therapy, Meredith and her colleagues write. It may also give parents a better idea of what their children are going through emotionally, they add.

“Once primary care doctors understand the perceived barriers that exist on both sides,” Meredith said, “they are better able to work with a family to get care that feels right for a particular teenager.”

SOURCE: Medical Care, June 2009.

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