Depression, the cause of more than two-thirds of reported suicides in the United States, is an epidemic affecting millions of teenagers. According to the 2013 Health and Risk Behaviors of Massachusetts Youth, 22 percent of high school students experienced depression symptoms. While mental health care is generally difficult to access, teens from low-income families face additional challenges in receiving education, treatment, and support around depression, such as fewer choices for local and/or culturally appropriate care, limited school resources for addressing student mental health, and stymied parental involvement. Studies have shown that depressed teens who communicate their feelings to and receive support from their parents are more likely to understand and accept treatment. Without parental support, teens who are depressed can remain undiagnosed, under- or poorly treated, and at higher risk for suicide.
Utilizing our years of experience engaging Metro Boston communities and volunteers in workshops about teen depression, we propose to 1) form an advisory council of low-income and minority teens with a diagnosed mood disorder (e.g., depression, bipolar disorder), their parents, clinicians, industry stakeholders, and school staff; 2) work with the advisory council to organize a series of town hall events to identify the biggest obstacles to parental involvement in diagnosis and care; 3) compile the resulting feedback; and 4) provide opportunities for the advisory council and community participants to learn about comparative effectiveness research and how this project will lead to future research on maximizing parental involvement in the treatment of low-income teenagers diagnosed with a mood disorder.