Collaborative Care an Effective Treatment for Teen Depression

Grandma comforting adolescent girlA coordinated team effort that includes doctors, family support, and a depression care manager could be a more effective approach to treating adolescent depression than more traditional methods, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Researchers say collaborative care may lead to better outcomes while also being more cost-effective in the long term.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression affects an estimated 11.4% of Americans ages 12-17. In addition to the burden it places on adolescents and their loved ones, this high prevalence also puts pressure on the health care system. The financial impact of teenage depression is among the most critical concerns, as costs can quickly become a barrier to treatment by restricting the availability of services.

Collaborative Care vs. Standard Treatment for Depression

This study was built on previous findings that hinted at the applicability of a collaborative care approach to adolescent depression. Researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial with participants from nine different primary care facilities in Washington state. A total of 101 adolescents were included, with 50 of them assigned to receive collaborative care and the rest to usual treatment strategies.

The experiment lasted for 12 months. Teens assigned to collaborative care received one initial session with a doctor, subsequent treatment in the primary care clinic, and regular monitoring from a care manager. Researchers measured effectiveness by costs and quality-of-life scores they calculated from participants’ survey responses throughout the study.

The findings showed collaborative care had a small but significant advantage over traditional approaches. Initial costs were slightly higher, but the researchers say the difference was statistically insignificant and costs related to the delivery of treatment methods were almost equal.

At the conclusion of the study, about 70% of the teens who received collaborative care saw a significant reduction in depression symptoms. By comparison, about 40% of teens in standard care experienced a decrease in symptoms.

Untreated Adolescent Depression Could Have Lasting Effects

When not treated in adolescence, depression can have negative effects that last well into adulthood. A recently released longitudinal study of 1,265 people from New Zealand found the severity of depression symptoms in adolescence was correlated with many negative outcomes—such as anxiety, major depression, substance abuse, violence, and others—at the ages of 30 and 35. Implementing collaborative care approaches during adolescence may help reduce or prevent further mental health issues in adulthood.


  1. Major depression among adolescents. (n.d.). National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from
  2. Mcleod, G. F., Horwood, L. J., & Fergusson, D. M. (2016). Adolescent depression, adult mental health and psychosocial outcomes at 30 and 35 years. Psychological Medicine, 46(07), 1401-1412. doi:10.1017/s0033291715002950
  3. Wright, D. R., Haaland, W. L., Ludman, E., Mccauley, E., Lindenbaum, J., & Richardson, L. P. (2016). The costs and cost-effectiveness of collaborative care for adolescents with depression in primary care settings. JAMA Pediatrics. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.1721

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  • Josie


    September 28th, 2016 at 10:19 AM

    I wholeheartedly agree with this but I also think that we have to now start to think big. This isn’t only something that will help teen patients, but instead I think that it is probably a method that could work best for many people who are depressed and looking for any help that they can get. It always feels good to know that you have a team behind you and supporting you every step of the way.

  • Ella


    September 28th, 2016 at 2:53 PM

    It can be a great approach as long as the patient is not being given conflicting points of view.

    They might need to hear the same message from different voices but the team as a whole all has to be on the same page.

  • Richard


    September 29th, 2016 at 2:11 PM

    The thought of my teen being depressed and me not seeking out help for him is beyond my level of comprehension.

  • Danni


    September 30th, 2016 at 12:48 PM

    I am hoping that this means that parents will have the chance to get involved as well.

  • Richard


    October 3rd, 2016 at 1:17 PM

    In some ways I think that families might find this a little more confusing than they would if they had simple and trust worthy information coming from one source. I would think that if they start hearing from too many different angles then they might be confused about the best way to move forward with treatment.

  • holly d

    holly d

    October 4th, 2016 at 1:48 PM

    why is it that simple things that most of us have known for a long time are just now beginning to be used?

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