With the hormones, social pressure, and successive changes that come with adolescence and the teen years, many young adults struggle both emotionally and psychologically to deal with their quickly changing worlds. Too often, this manifests itself in depression, sometimes severe, that can also lead to suicide. In the United States, 2-8 percent of adolescents attempt suicide each year, and more teens (ages 10 through 24) die from suicide than from all natural causes combined. Therapy, counseling, and other forms of treatment are ideal in helping teens achieve solid footing. But too often, these resources are either not available (due to socioeconomic status, rural location, and other factors) or are not taken advantage of.
How to reach teenagers who struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts has been the subject of two recent initiatives, one in Australia and one in the United States. In Australia, researchers looked at the efficacy of interactive online tools in fighting depression for teens with a study called Internet Self-Help for Depression. The research found that interactive websites (such as MoodGym) were more helpful than text-only, information-based websites. Interactive depression fighting websites were most effective when paired with traditional real-world therapy. In fact, the combination of psychotherapy plus interactive web work returned the highest rate of success, the study found: together, the two approaches engendered a greater reduction in depression that either approach did alone.
In the United States, a new multi-year research project will begin starting this fall to test the effectiveness of a suicide prevention program called Sources of Strength. The idea behind Sources of Strength is to change two key components of teen culture: stigma against seeking help, and a perceived absence of adult support for suicidal teens. Rather than hoping to identify suicidal teens and get them into therapy before it’s too late, Sources of Strength uses peer-based prevention techniques to create a safe environment in which teens feel comfortable seeking help before it gets to that point. Peer leaders will be trained to promote, encourage, and engender healthy social norms, involve adults, and establish cultures of acceptance and support within their schools.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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